content marketing lead generation

How to Generate Leads with Content Marketing

Key points

  1. Understanding your target audience’s needs is crucial for in order to be able to generates leads through content.
  2. Clearly define your objectives in content marketing, such as increasing sales, generating leads, or building an email list.
  3. Tailor your content to the different stages of the buyer’s journey and the search intent of your target audience.

Content marketing can be an amazing tool in any company’s arsenal. Most business leaders are aware that it helps with brand recognition, customer loyalty, and product awareness. Beyond that, however, content can also help with customer lead generation, including having a direct impact on the revenue of a company.

But how do you move past the awareness stage and start generating leads with content marketing?

Define a persona

Content marketing doesn’t happen in a void. It’s an act of communication—and, depending on which channels you choose, it can even be a two-way conversation. Before you start creating content, it’s important to understand who your target audience is. You should determine what their needs, wants, and pain points are, so you can effectively create content that speaks to them.

To see who your ideal customer is, do the following:

  • Dig into website and social media analytics to see who is likely to interact with your content the most.

  • Run customer interviews or surveys to get a better understanding of who you’re targeting.

  • Research your competitors and see what content resonates with their audiences.

  • Kick-start a market research survey to learn more about the type of content people want to consume.

Creating a buyer persona will help you to understand who your audience is and what type of content they are looking for. This should be the foundation of your content marketing strategy, as it will help you to create content that resonates with your target audience. It also makes them more likely to become active, warm leads.

Define your goals

One of the biggest mistakes in content marketing is not defining clear, obtainable objectives. Ask yourself what you want to accomplish. It could be

  • increasing sales by 20%,

  • generating 500 leads in a month, or

  • building an email list of 1,000 subscribers.

Content marketing can help with all these things (and it can be measured too). But if you publish blog posts sporadically, without a plan and without goals, you won’t be able to track progress or even measure success.

Think of it this way: if you want to be fitter, you’ll start by measuring where you are now—and then you will set a goal for yourself. Maybe you can do two push-ups, maybe you can do twenty—the idea is you know where you stand and you know where you want to go.

SMART goals

SMART (S – Specific, M – Measurable, A – Attainable, R – Relevant, T – Timely) goals are essential for any type of endeavor, and content marketing makes no exception. Examples of SMART goals in content marketing include:

  • publish 3 blog posts each week and increase website traffic by 10% within 4 months

  • generate 500 leads in six months by creating gated content

  • send 4 email newsletters each month and increase open rate by 15%

Once you have your goals in place, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and start the work.

Get your tool stack in order

In theory, you only need Google Docs and a blog to do content marketing.

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In practice, you will likely want to measure the results of your efforts, make the process as efficient as possible, and ensure smooth collaboration between the different stakeholders involved in content creation.

Here are some of the tools you might want to consider.

Process

The secret to building content marketing that actually works is having a process in place.

You need to have an understanding of where ideas come from, who they are for, and what you can do with them. As such, building a process based on transparency, collaboration, and feedback is essential for success.

To make sure that happen, you will need:

  • documentation tool (Outline, Notion, Confluence, etc.)

  • agency project management tool (Trello, Asana, Jira, etc.)

  • file management (Google Drive, Dropbox, etc.)

  • writing (Grammarly, HemingwayApp, CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer)

  • publishing (WordPress, Statamic, Medium, etc.)

  • social media marketing tools (Hootsuite, Buffer, etc.)

  • email marketing tools (Mailchimp, ActiveCampaign, Convertkit)

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Data & Analytics

You want to make sure your content efforts are data-driven, so you should also include some analytics tools in your stack. Some of the most commonly used ones include:

  • SEO tools (like Semrush, Ahrefs, SurferSEO, NeuronWriter, etc.)

  • Google Analytics

  • Google Search Console

  • heat mapping tools (such as CrazyEgg or Hotjar)

  • Facebook Insights

  • Twitter Analytics

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Design

People are far more likely to consume content if it looks nice and is designed to be easy to understand. To create high-quality design assets, you will need:

  • a vector image subscription

  • a stock image subscription

  • an easy design tool (such as Canva, Figma, etc.)

And if you plan on creating videos or podcasts, you may need tools for that too (such as Adobe Premiere, Final Cut Pro, Audacity).

Hit the search intent

Search engine optimization remains one of the least expensive (and most efficient) ways to ensure your content reaches its intended audience. To make sure that your content is optimized for search engines, you will have to do keyword research.

Normally, you will want to look for keywords with higher volume and low competition, but if you want to do SEO content marketing for lead generation, you will also want to focus on search intent. In essence, search intent is about understanding why people search for certain things, and what they are trying to get answered.

Once you have an idea of what your target audience is looking for, create content to match their intent. There are four main types of search intent:

  1. Informational: people looking for information about a certain topic

  2. Navigational: people looking for a specific website, page, or site section

  3. Transactional: people looking for a product or service to purchase

  4. Commercial: people comparing different products or services

By understanding and optimizing for search intent, you can increase the visibility of your content in the SERPs, and not just for the awareness stage of the buyer’s journey, but for the consideration and decision stages too.

keyword intent Semrush

By the way, if you’re using Semrush, you can see the search intent for every keyword. This makes it easier to focus your research on the keywords you prefer targeting.

Create and keep high-quality content updated

Good content is about more than just SEO optimization. In the age of content overload, and considering the rapid shifts occurring in today’s marketing space, good content is about creating valuable, relevant information that stands out from the crowd.

It’s also about truly connecting with your readership—because, at the end of the day, your content is more than just a transaction of information. It is, as mentioned before, communicationand that means it goes beyond just words on a page.

Optimize your content for conversion

The stages of the buyer’s journey don’t live in echo chambers. They connect with each other—and, depending on what you sell, they can frequently be flexible and non-linear.

You can optimize the content you create for conversion by focusing on creating quality information that’s tailored to both the customer journey and their intent.

For example, you could create downloadable lead magnet resources like:

  • e-books and whitepapers that are tailored to each stage of the buyer’s journey

  • content specifically designed to address customer pain points

  • case studies on specific use cases 

  • webinar-based reports and/or e-books 

  • educational content that addresses common questions

You can also connect these lead generation resources to blog posts on adjacent topics, to lead people from the awareness stage and closer to consideration.

Once people download these resources (and subscribe to an email list), you can follow up via your automated lead generation system. Ideally, you want to nurture them and get them closer to your products or services (in a way that doesn’t push them to buy but focuses on the problems they have—and how your solution can help with them). According to a study by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, almost three quarters of the most successful content marketers nurture leads via email.

Here’s how this entire cycle could look like, for example:

  • you are an SEO freelancer

  • someone searches for “best way to get more traffic to your website” on Google

  • your article ranks first, so they click on it

  • they read the article, and a pop-up prompts them to download an e-book on SEO from A to Z

  • they download the piece, and you send them four emails:

    • one with a link to the e-book download, one with advice on navigating SEO tides in times of AI storms

    • one with advice on technical SEO

    • another with information about your SEO services.

What the lead will realize as they read through the email sequence is that, not only are you an expert, they do need a good SEO for their new business. And you’ll be the first person they’ll contact.

Distribute content

Search engine optimization is a great way to distribute your content and ensure it reaches as many people as possible. However, it shouldn’t be your only channel of distribution. The more channels you use, the more leads you’ll generate.

Make sure to invest in content distribution and promotion, by leveraging influencers and other channels such as social media and email campaigns. Do keep in mind that you don’t need to be everywhere, as your ideal customers aren’t everywhere either.

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Also, remember that your content distribution should not be sporadic: it should be thoroughly strategized, planned, and implemented. When done right, it can put your content in front of more people—and even if they are not ready to buy from you right now, it can help you build trust and establish relationships with them.

Measure the effectiveness of your content efforts

According to Content Marketing Institute, 94% of the top most successful content marketers measure the results of their content marketing efforts.

It makes sense: you can’t know if something’s working if you don’t measure it. And while some elements of content marketing are hard to measure, plenty can be tracked. Some of the most important content marketing metrics to measure include the following.

Traffic, impressions, and clicks in search engine results pages

These SEO metrics are the foundation of all search-oriented content marketing efforts. Using Google Analytics and Google Search Console, you can track these numbers and assess your content marketing efforts, as well as adjust when needed.

For example, you may find that some articles have a lot of impressions, but no clicks. This may mean that you need to make tweaks to the content, like adding more visuals to make it more appealing and clickable.

Likewise, you may find that some articles have no traffic at all, despite your best efforts to optimize them. In this case, you may need to make adjustments to the FAQ schema, main keyword, adjacent keywords, and the structure of your articles.

Bounce rates

A bounce rate shows you how many of your visitors left your page without taking any action. If you have a high bounce rate, it means people aren’t finding what they’re looking for on your page—and thus, you probably have issues with the quality of your content or how well it fits the search intent.

Time spent engaging with content

Measuring how much time people spend engaging with your content is a great way to know if it’s textually heavy enough to keep their attention and satisfy their needs. As such, measuring the average time on page is a great way to assess which content formats are more successful at engaging people and helping them find what they need.

Number of shares, likes, and comments

Sometimes it’s not just enough to measure the hard metrics—you also need to look at engagement. Seeing how many people are sharing, liking, and commenting on your content is a great way to see if it’s resonating with them, and whether it’s serving its purpose.

Lead generation downloads

Offering potential customers downloadable content in exchange for their email addresses can bring more clarity to your marketing efforts. By tracking the number of downloads for each piece of content, you can get an idea of which formats are more successful at capturing leads.

Conversion rate

Your conversion rate is defined as the percentage of people who completed a desired action after reading your content. It’s a great way to measure the effectiveness of your content in converting leads and helping them find the information they need.

Keep in mind that there are multiple ways to define a conversion in content marketing. For example, you could define “hard conversions” (i.e., when someone fills out a contact form or makes a purchase) and “soft conversions” (when someone signs up for your email list downloads an asset, or shares your content).

Email open rates and click-through rates

If you run a newsletter (and you should), measuring email metrics is essential to assess the quality of your content, as well as its effectiveness at engaging people. Using email tracking tools, you can measure open rates, click-through rates, and other metrics to assess how engaged your subscribers are with your content.

Conclusion

Lead generation via content marketing is a complex, frequently misunderstood branch of marketing. Some say it’s all SEO, others acknowledge that content marketing and SEO are related (and interdependent) but not the same.

In reality, content marketing is a holistic approach to creating high-quality content that meets both search engine algorithms and human needs. At the end of the day, the one reason to create content is to build relationships with people likely to buy from you: to educate, inform, and entertain them.

So, if you want to make sure you generate leads with your content, you have to think of it as an end-to-end system, rather than an isolated piece of the puzzle. Your content should sit at the confluence between the different channels your marketing team focuses on—so it can serve them well, take ideas from them, and work towards a common goal: that of helping you reach more people who will eventually make a purchase.

Next, read this post to find out about tactics on the topic of lead generation for agencies. It introduces you to 10 different ways agencies can generate leads.

Avatar of Chris Willow
Founder of SPP
Chris started Service Provider Pro back in 2014 as a way to help automate a video production agency he was running at the time. Being early to productized services, he was frustrated with having to piecemeal different tools and services and ended up building an all-in-one client portal platform for himself and a few friends. That eventually took off and now Chris helps agency owners scale through software and systems.

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