Turn your blog into a lead-generation hub

As seen in Westchester County Business Journal

Nearly one-third of business-to-business companies have a blog in their marketing toolkit. Blogs are a great avenue for making a website more content-rich, showcasing thought leadership and providing commentary on timely industry topics and trends. Blogging is also a great way to generate qualified leads and tie marketing more closely to one’s sales cycle.

Converting your business’ blog into a lead-generation hub doesn’t happen overnight. It requires a carefully-planned content strategy, a keen understanding of your sales cycle and a commitment to consistently producing high-quality content that will resonate with Web-surfing target audiences and inspire action. For companies willing to make the commitment however, it can significantly increase return on investment from marketing.

Getting started

Whether you’re new to blogging or looking to revamp an existing business blog, auditing existing marketing, sales and other thought leadership assets is a great place to start. Auditing existing assets will help to generate topics for future blog posts and aggregate content that can be repurposed to help ease the content creation burden.

With the intelligence from your audit in tow, it’s time to talk to the sales team. Remember, integration between marketing and sales is key to building an effective lead-generation blog, so you’ll want to gather firsthand insights from the folks who interface with current and prospective clients day in and day out.

Ask for common questions they field during the sales cycle, barriers to purchase and who among your competitors tends to win bids over your company. You’ll also want to do some online research to see whose websites and blogs are popping up as top results for key search terms. All of these insights can help to hone your content strategy and identify opportunities for your business to stand out from the crowd.

Driving action

With a content plan in place, it’s time to determine how to drive meaningful action via your business’ blog. For example, do you want people to ask questions, leave comments, download a complementary whitepaper or contact the company after consuming your content? While we’d all like a direct sales inquiry after consuming one piece of content, that isn’t entirely realistic. In most instances, you’ll need to move readers through the whole sales funnel, guiding them from awareness to consideration and consideration to action. Keep this top-of-mind as you work to build the content that supports and enhances your blog.

As you add these additional content mediums into the mix, you’ll want to make sure the user experience remains a positive one – that data capture forms are easy to fill out (while still giving your marketing and sales teams the preliminary data they need), that paths to content are as direct as possible (nobody wants to click three, four or five times to get to their ultimate destination) and that everything you pen, illustrate or animate is audience-centric. Using blogs to generate leads isn’t about a hard sell — it’s about educating target audiences and building trust so that when the time does come to buy, your company is top-of-mind.

Staying on the radar

Beyond consistently publishing relevant, high-quality content, you’ll want to be sure that any data capture forms linked to your blog – be they to download a whitepaper, schedule a consultation, etc. — are tied to an email lead-nurturing campaign that can help move prospects down the aforementioned sales funnel. When crafting these emails, focus on providing added value. You want people to open, read and benefit from the emails, so be sure everything from your headline to your closing line are on point and aligned with the target audiences’ wants and needs (also known as their buyer persona).

Growing readership

Great content alone isn’t enough to make your blog a high-performing lead generator. You’ll need to identify ways to drive the right readers to your content. This mix may include a search engine marketing program, social media marketing and email marketing, among other tactics. The key is to employ a diverse range of communication channels that will reach the right audiences. Securing guest blogging opportunities on strategic partners’ blogs and through industry trade association and publication blogs can also help boost readership.

As you work to cement your business’ blog as a lead-generation hub, keep your eye on the competition and your antennae up for timely opportunities to develop new content. Your blog is a real-time marketing tool and with the right content and a keen understanding of the company sales cycle, it can consistently generate ROI.

Danielle M. Cyr is vice president of integrated marketing for Co-Communications, a marketing and public relations agency with offices in Mount Kisco, Farmington and Manhattan. She can be reached at danielle@cocommunications.com.