Today I am going to be controversial. You will not like what I am going to say. You will not want to believe it as it seems to contradicts with what you have read, been advised by experts and consultants and what you might already invested in. I will tell you the 5 most common projects companies take to get leads but end up losing money without results. You will be tempted to stop reading and think I am some kind of alternate medicine man. I am sorry, I have to take you there, but these are just concepts that we have to shot down before you can really learn how to succeed in growing your business with content marketing.
1. Web site redesign will not get you new leads
Most companies believe their current web site is the reason why they are not getting leads. And they invest thousands or tens of thousands dollars (or euros, pounds...) to build a new web site that will flood them with leads. Have you been there? Considered a new web site will solve it all? Or actually invested into one? I sure have, number of times.
A new web site will make you look better. Nice design, better information architecture, mobile friendly, responsive… Your customers are going to love it. Your sales people will love just the thought of it. It’s going to be awesome.
But half a year later leads are not dropping in any faster that before. Maybe little faster, maybe even slower. Why?
A web site can serve one master: either it serves your outbound or inbound sales strategy.
A web site build for outbound sales strategy cannot be optimised for lead generation. The traffic itself is seldom organic, even when you think it is. The traffic is coming from customers that you have activated to come to your web site with outbound marketing and sales tactics: you have spammed them, you have advertised, you have called them cold. They go to your web site to see who the hell are you. Your web site needs to convince the customer should move on. That is, you have to answer any questions, tackle any objections, back any sales promises… Thus it’s all over the place. There needs to be tons of pages. And all needs to accessible from front page and navigation. You see, a outbound web site is answer to any question the customer may still have that stops them from moving forward.
A outbound web site will not get you leads for two primary reasons. Firstly it does not attract customers, you have really pushed them in with your outbound efforts. Thus a lead you might get from your web site, is seldom a inbound lead actually. Just a fruit of your outbound efforts that happened to convert to a lead online. Secondly your web site is going to confuse any inbound lead with tons of pages.
A web site build for inbound sales strategy is much different from it’s outbound cousin. This web site is minimalistic and conversion optimised. The customer is going to land on the web site after many touches with your content before. She has seen you on social media, read your blogs, downloaded your e-book, received your nurture emails and finally she is ready to look what you have in offer. Thus a inbound web site can be just a one page web site really.
2. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) will not get leads that will buy
"People will not find us", is the second common reason you think you will not get leads, so you hire a Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) consultant or dig into the subject yourself.
But your SEO efforts will not get you much leads. There are going to be several reasons for that.
The content on your web site is end-of-funnel content. You can only use it to get customers who are late on their buying process. And here lies the problem.
You can only fish those leads that haven’t find a solution from your competitors.
Or leads that are looking for a second or third offer, from just about anybody, for reference. But you won’t have a real change. The customer have already been on someone else’s content funnel for months and have build a brand preference that is hard for you to crack so late in the funnel.
I can only remember one customer who has succeeded with classic SEO. When they entered Human Resource software market, they were able to turn “just for reference” leads into sales as their price was half of the competition. Once they gained traction, they have increased prices and abandon this strategy. For all other customers I have talked with, their SEO leads never materialised into sales.
Finally your web site will not convert leads arriving from your SEO efforts. It’s too confusing, it’s too all over the place, there is no clear Call-To-Action.
But don't get me wrong, I am not saying SEO isn't important, as it is, but it's not a lead generation strategy.
3. Blogging is great for traffic, just don't expect leads
You are reading this on a blog and I am saying blogging does not generate leads? What!
Well, the fact is, it doesn’t. Let me explain.
Blogging is great for traffic. But there’s a big step from traffic to leads. And a blog in itself does not usually take potential customers far enough for being ready to “contact us”.
I have written well over 300 blog posts during the years (mostly in Finnish, sorry) about customer loyalty. I typically get 5 leads per year out of those. Non have led to sales yet.
But I am not saying blogging is not worth its while. It is. But as a sole lead generation tactic it’s not going to work.
When I meet people, they come to me saying they love my posts. And that they might actually have a case for me. "Well, why hadn’t they contacted me then?", I am wondering. Seems, “contact us” is quite a big step for customers. “Contact us” is like saying "we are actively seeking a solutions you are providing and will like to have an offer”. It’s quite different from “we might have a case for you” which reads “you will need to help us understand why we need your solutions, but it sure is interesting what you are offering”. You expect to receive leads that are ready to buy, whereas they think they are ready to be sold to.
Blogging will not itself generate you leads. The conversion is usually very small, so you need to generate lots of quality traffic to get one lead. For an average company selling to businesses, it’s not going to happen. It might work if your product or service is low risk to buy and your blog is well aligned for your product/service. Blogging might work for e.g. training services. But blogging sure is important piece of a working inbound sales lead engine.
4. Your customers are on Social Media, but that's not where you should go for leads
"We need to get into social media.” Sure you do. That's were your customers are, right now. But don't expect leads.
Social media still seems to be the magic bullet for many companies. Unfortunately it will not generate leads no matter how many followers you have. And to be frank, you are not going to be the next Will It Blend?
Social media rockets are outliers. That success is not available for an average company, like yours. It might happen. You might won in lottery. But hope is not a strategy. Sorry.
Social media presence is very important for sharing content and getting traffic to your blog. But as a separate tactic, it's going to be just a waste of money.
5. Aiming for Though leadership is likely to decrease number of leads
“We want to be seen as thought leaders in our industry."
Though Leadership is one of the most dangerous concepts in content marketing. Executed right, it’s a killer. But most get it wrong and end up making new customers acquisition more difficult, rather than easier. Some even blow all their changes.
Let me explain.
The way thought leadership is usually seen, is that one is aiming to be the expert of the experts. Capo di tutti i capi. The professor of the industry.
But aiming for the though leader position makes the company, not more, but less accessible for new customers.
When customers identifies a need, they enter research mode. Three things happen here. First the customer is learning the subject in order to be an educated buyer, and not in the mercy of a slippery salesman. Then the customer is trying to learn more about their need against what’s actually possible, feasible and available in the market. And that leads to third, to understand who could be the best suppliers for them to be shortlisted and contacted. That's the best for them, not the best. Not the Capo di tutti i capi.
Let's open up this with my usual case of Hifi-equipment. Same applies to a B2B buyer.
You have identified a need to play some music for guests in your living room. So you enter the market in research mode to see what you should be buying. You are a man or woman of quality, so visiting closest electronic store is our of question. You google and find some content of how to select perfect hifi.
Now the capo di capo's of Hifi-market are the one's making classic turntables with 5 kilo stone plate, or those selling hugely expensive gold cables, or speakers that costs as much as a Porsche. A new Porsche that is. And per speaker, not per pair. But the money in the market is made by brands like Sony.
The risk of though leadership is that you take your company to fight with the capos of your industry. Not for new customers, but for fighting those few big name enterprise customers. But you will not get any leads from those. Your thought leadership efforts might make it a bit easier to sell to such a high profile customer. If their existing provider screw things up, as that's the only way they are going to give you a real change.
If you need new leads, you should not aim for the professor of your industry, but rather the teacher of your industry. But that's not necessary the most intuitive thought leader position, being the one who makes things simple, that is.
Let's wrap this up
I hope you didn't have many of these 5 common mistake projects planned, going on or done! And if you had, all is not lost.
Social Media, Search Engine Optimisation, Blogging, Thought leadership and even a new web site are parts of a success strategy, but not the usual way. They are all part of the inbound sales strategy I am going to open up in the next post.
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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.