19 Best Content for Lead Generation

Friday, January 09, 2015

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You have read all the posts about content marketing, and perhaps blogged already. You might have buzz in your social media accounts and traffic on your blog, but talking about more traffic, increased brand recognition or building thought leadership might start to fade of. You, and your boss, are expecting some real results, and not just marketing BS with metrics that doesn’t matter. You need to show leads.

Social media or blogging itself does not bring you leads. They bring traffic. To turn traffic into leads, you need a hook and a bait. You need valuable content as a bait, and a lead capture form as a hook.

Social media or blogging itself does not bring you leads. They bring traffic. To turn traffic into leads, you need a hook and a bait. You need valuable content as a bait, and a lead capture form as a hook. In order to get your valuable content, a customer must fill the form with e.g. name, email and phone number. This is the point, where a visitor turns into lead. And this is where you start to show some real metrics to discuss about.

Then there’s the question about lead quality of course. More is not neccessarily better, and so forth. Let’s leave solving that part to another post and just say, that you obviously need to nurture leads. Ripe leads are ready to be sold to, where as raws will still need some tender love and care from your content marketing and nurturing operation.

And let’s put the question about landing pages and lead capture forms into another post as well. You need valuable content to catch leads, and let’s concentrate on those now.

You are about to ask contact information as a price for your content, so even though you are not charging money for your content, it’s still not totally free from customers perpective. And it’s not just contact information, and trouble of answering your sales calls, that is their cost. There’s time cost as well. Reading an e-book, watching a video or trying out your product requires time. Your content needs to be (far) more valuable than it costs.

Valuable content can become in many packages, that is, you can use many different formats. Although e-books are now very popular, you may find some other formats work better for you, especially in different phases in your marketing funnel. Repeating same format is, well, repetition. 

So here is a list of typical formats Loyalistic users use to catch leads:

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1. e-Book

e-Book is the most typical content used for capturing leads, for good reasons. If you call your paper e-Book, people will expect it to be a book, albeit electronic one, with all the good qualities of a book. Great valuable content, well edited, written by true expert. And if you are wondering who the expert might be, that’s You.

People buy books for real money, so calling your paper e-book will make it sound lot more valuable for them. Getting something really valuable for free is always a good value proposition, isn’t it.

As an e-Book is a book, you can create fancy cover for it, and create 3D looking cover shot out of it. Instead of just calling it a book, you are also showing an image of the book, making it concrete.

Calling your paper e-Book sets some expectations though. Books are not associated to marketing, so you should be fairly objective and leave "marketing talk” and sales pitches out of it.

You might wonder if writing an e-book requires too much effort. Writing an book is usually a profession. But fear not. Although e stands for electronic, you can also think it as e in executive. E-book is about giving executive summary about your subject to a reader. E-books do not need to go into hundreds of pages. Some 25 pages is perfectly ok. And that translates to far lower number of pages in raw text. Adding margins, line spacing, visuals, cover pages, bio, about your company, table of content and bit of design for better reading experience will extend your paper to a length where you can proudly call it an e-book (and that e stands for executive summary).

2. White paper

White paper used to be the format of choice for B2B marketers. And it’s still used heavily. Nothing wrong with that. Heavy, substance rich content, from industry’s best experts. That’s what white papers are all about.

Being a heavy advanced paper, it’s place is in the bottom of your content marketing funnel. It’s not neccesarily best for capturing leads, rather in convincing existing leads about your thought leadership and expertise close to the purchase decision.

And this brings us to the question of thought leadership. Great concept if done right, but so easy to get wrong. Acquiring new customers is not about being the most advanced company, but being the most accessible one. New customers are looking for someone who can get them started in X, not the once that will get them to the most advanced level. Thought leadership should not be about trying to be better than the consultant next door in inventing new acronymes. It should be about being so confident about one’s expertise, that one can teach everybody about the subject.

Most customers prefer easy reading, although they say otherwise.

I used to subscribe Harvard Business Review for 10 years. I still have the copies. But I hardly ever read them. They required too much effort on a busy day. Same with The Economist.

But I did find time to read hundreds of business books though. They just are so much easier to read.

So do use white papers, but not as your main lead capture content, rather use them later in the funnel. Or as a content meant for existing customers or winning customers from competitors.

3. Report

If you can do a research or a survey, writing an report about the findings is a great paper for lead capture almost in all steps of your content marketing funnel. Just remember it’s not an academic paper thought. Keep it light and communicate key findings in an easy and clear way to drive the points throught. And here is a risk. Typically results are not so clear or simple. You can say things if they are backed by your data, but don’t say something that you cannot really prove. It’s too easy to get burned.

4. Presentation

Presentation is an unlikely format here. It’s not something you create for just lead capturing. You create it for presenting obviously, and then want to share it to those who would want it for reference, or those who couldn’t attend.

When I am speaking public, some people get very interested, but who? Very few will come to discuss and express interest afterwards.

By allowing the organizer to share my slides, I don’t get that information either.

So I use two different tactics to learn who are really interested. If I have something else about the subject, my last slide shows a link and QR code for that. In that case, I happily allow the organiser share the slides, and I do it myself in Slideshare as well. In that case, my presentation is promoting my e-book.

But if I don’t have suitable other material to use as a bait, I might use my presentation as one. Then the last slide tells where to get my slides. And it’s a link (and QR-code) to my landing page with lead capture form. If possible, I try to be active on the event’s hashtag before, during and after my presentation. During? Yes, I schedule updates to happen during the presentation just before going to the stage.

You are not limited to sharing presentations you just held. Just dig deep into your Presentations-folder to see what gems you might have lying around. Some of our customers share even sales presentations, and are happy with the results. That might not work for you, as sales presentations are not necessarily that valuable to customers in general, but in high ticket enterprise sales customers might prefer a peek to your offering before inviting you to pitch in person. 

5. Document template

Templates are one of the easiest and best content formats for lead capture. It’s crazy how a Word document with few dozen words on it could be that effective. But consider it from customer’s perspective, and use an example.

Sue is really interested in creating an information security policy for her organisation. She has read blog posts, e-books and attended number of events to learn more. She has all the knowledge, but is staring to an empty Word document. She just don’t get started. Structure is missing. She don’t know where to start the writing, what format should the document follow, what questions and in which order should she answer. So she googles for help: “information security policy template”.

A document template does not have to contain much. The key is to give customer the idea of how to get started. It might be just the top level table of content with headings that is needed. Few instructing words or example are just icing the cake.

If you are an expert in a field, you have dozens of documents lying around just waiting to be templated. Create new Word-document and copy-paste headings, save and you are done. Takes 15 minutes to do. Be careful of not to copy-paste anything containing confidential information, or edit the original document into template as Word might store your edit history into the document. Thus it’s always a good practise to start from a fresh document.

The beauty of document templates in lead capture is that when someone downloads your template, she is just trying to solve the problem you sell solution for. So be quick to make initial contact.

6. Spreadsheet template

Spreadsheets are great tools for lead capturing. They are very valuable to customers.

Use spreadsheets like document templates, for checklist or plan templates. Or add functions and logic to create for example a ROI-calculator.

Creating spreadsheet template might require more work than a document template, especially if you are adding functions and rules. And it’s easy to spend hours polishing the looks to just perfect. But resist the temptation. Simple and easy tool is what spreadsheet template is all about.

7. Webinar (recorded webinar)

Webinars come in two variations: live or recorded. Third being obviously live and recorded:-). Recorded webinars are easier to arrange, and you should start with them when you are advancing into webinars. All you need is smartphone, well lid room and something interesting to say.

Record your presentation, edit if you like, upload to Youtube or Vimeo and publish as a unlisted video. Simple and straightforward. You don’t need any special equipment or software, a friend, tripod or selfie-stick will help thought. All smartphones and most camcorders come with required software for recording and uploading.

If you are demoing your app, or showing presentation, you may record your screen and speak voice overs, or mix video and screen recordings. Search “screen recorder” for you OS.

8. Video

So your company have spend thousands and thousands to professionally made video. Should it be open, or used for lead capture? Well, that is a question.

Some prefer to get more buzz by keeping videos open. And some put everything behind lead capture form. It really is about how valuable the content is for customers and what is your selling model. Simple answer would be: use short videos to generate buzz and create longer more valuable videos for lead capture.

9. Brochure

Brochure is something you don’t expect to be put behind a lead capture form. Normally. Brochure is not what a customer would call valuable content. But then there are many cases where it makes complete sense to do so. Marketing is about helping sales. In enterprise sales, niche products, products with limited market, premium offering and so forth customer is even expecting to be contacted. If the customer cannot get information “free” from other sources, added friction from lead capture form is ok.

Your offering can probably be divided into products that are likely first buys, and more advanced products that are likely be bought by existing clients. Try lead capture form with the latter, and keep others open.

10. Infographics

Infographics are visual presentation of facts in attractive form. People really like to share them. Thus they are great in generating traffic. So why should you put them behind lead capture form? You shouldn’t and you should. Keep the web resolution version free and share print optimised version behind lead capture form. Or offer some extra information for those who bother to fill in contact information.

Which leads us to...

11. Extended Blog Post with Extra Tips

Blog posts are great in attracting customers, but they are really louse in converting into leads. "Contact us” isn’t something blog readers are willing to do. So how you generate leads with blogging?

By using extended blog posts! If you have a really good blog post, people are willing to 'hand over business cards’ for few extra tips. Offer your 19 best content for lead generation for free, but give PDF with 3 extra tips for contact information. 

12. URL

Any online resource can be a lead capturing bait. We have already covered webinars, videos and will cover online demos, but you might have something else online that can be offered behind lead capture form: Free trial perhaps, software download, special tool, access to data, information...

13. Event Registration

Events are important for any content marketers. If you are arranging the seminar or event yourself, there are just tons of things to do including marketing the event, taking registrations, sending reminders… Something you can do easily with landing page, lead capture form and lead nurturing. Event registration is thus very similar to anything else in the list. For customers it’s still the valuable content of the event that drives registrations.

14. Webinar registration

What works for offline event, will work also for online events. Create landing page with lead capture form aka registration page. Add lead nurturing to remind people. And promote like hell to drive traffic.

15. Calculator and other online tools

Online calculators and configurators are great tools for customers. If I am on the market for a new car, configurator is a tool that I’ll use for specsing my further bride and joy. And is thus a great place to capture leads for car salesmen and -women.

16. Online demo

Customers want to see your product in action before committing to it probably for years. User experience is something even best marketing cannot communicate. Customers want to see experience it first hand. Online demo is the way.

As customers are unlikely to contact you after demo spontaneously, you want to ask contact info before demo.

Online demo can come in many formats depending on your product, sales model and possibilities. One popular way is to use a static demo account and give it’s username and password on the thank you -page. Another popular is to send contact info to salesman who set ups demo account and emails it to customer.

If you let customer into your app unattended, remember to check the customer cannot change password or make any other destructive changes if you use static demo account, and that you have proper demo data in the application. Also ask, if the customer does understand how you app is supposed to work. Does she get it? Maybe you should arrange an online meeting over Skype or Join.me and demo the app for the customer. This way you can explain and answer questions.

17. Event recordings

If you are about to arrange an event or speak public, consider recording presentations to video and share them to people who couldn’t attend.

You can hire professionals, or just bring your camcorder and tripod to do it yourself. Youtube limits videos to 15 minutes, but you can raise the limit following these instructions.

18. Case Study

We are getting close to end and end of funnel is where Case Study and Reference Story sits in your marketing funnel. They are not necessarily the best lead capture tools, as you should have captured the lead already. But they are good indicators of deeper customer interest.

Case Study introduce a case you solve with your solution. Introduce the customer first: Name, place, industry, are they leading players or challengers, number of people if relevant, and few words about the industry. Do not forget to introduce and give proper credit to the people. B2B business is people to people business. See how people are introduced in newspaper articles, and do likewise. Open up the problem or situation where you started. What were the challenges. Quote your customer. It’s better they say it, than you say something that disgrace your customer. Then tell a interesting story of how you went from problem to solution. Then it’s time to hop few months ahead in time to report what happened in the end.

If you have watched master chef Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmare or any other let’s fix a restaurant or hotel reality TV program, follow their storyline: short intro of what will happen in the episode, uncovering how big the problem really is, long and colourful solving the problem part, last minute challenges, chef departs to come back a month later to see the results.

19. Reference Story

Reference Story is similar, and yet quite different from Case Study. Reference Story is about your customer using your product or services. It’s about social proof and emotional side of brain, where as Case Study is more focused on your ability on solving big challenges and for rational side of the brain.

So put more effort into presenting your customer and letting them to talk about themselves. It’s their moment. You just have to get few good quotes that sets you to the context and fundamental part of their success.

So put it in other words: Reference Story is about your customer succeeding with your products or services where as Case Study is about you solving their problems.

Dig into folders to find content you can use today

Lead generation does not have to start with content creation though. Take a look into your files and folders. You sure have something valuable lying around you can use as a bait and get started today

“I need to create valuable content” is an excuse you would be repeating one year from now.

I have heard that excuse so many times from our customers. Prospect are visiting your web site today, you are losing sales if you do not start capturing them right now! Those who get started, will get leads they can sell to. Results drive motivation and they find time to create valuable content, which leads to, well you guessed it, to leads and further success. Those who do not, are repeating “I need to create valuable content” year later with no leads generated.

So open Windows Explorer or Mac Finder now and start digging.

Want to turn your web site visitors into leads? Why not start now with Loyalistic!  

Written by Antti Pietilä

Antti is the founder and CEO at Loyalistic (Simple Content Marketing Software for B2B Companies) who loves to help SaaS-companies to grow at Software Entrepreneurs (@ohjelmisto_ry) and cycle. Say hello to him anytime @anttipietila.