This is a guest post from Sylvia Montgomery, Senior Partner at Hinge, a marketing and branding firm for professional services.
New qualified leads are the heart of growth for any company. In our digital world, firms have a cost-effective opportunity to attract new customers through content marketing. Hinge’s research on professional services marketing has found that firms which generate 40-60% of their leads online grow four times faster while being twice as profitable (see the figure below).
Content marketing takes many forms, including blog posts, articles, white papers, webinars, videos, books and more. Regardless of the format, the key to successful content marketing is engaging potential clients through material that is genuinely useful and relevant to them.
This means content that educates. Whether you’re creating a video, podcast, or blog post, it’s important to help your audience solve problems and take advantage of key opportunities in their areas. For a successful content strategy, you have to leave self-promotion behind and put on your teacher hat. What do your clients and prospects want to learn? How can your unique expertise help?
Knowing your audience
In order to attract qualified leads, it is crucial to create educational content specifically targeted to the industry you wish to reach. The more targeted the better. Know your audience, and speak to them in their language. One common mistake is to think about content in terms of your own organizational goals and objectives. Instead, you must make the reader the focal point of everything. Understand their needs, their obstacles, and their buying process. When you demonstrate this understanding, you cultivate credibility and a sense of trust in your brand – even among folks who have never worked with you.
A word of caution, however – you may not know what you think you know about your audience. One great way to create a data-driven content strategy is to conduct marketplace research on your clients’ and prospects’ needs and interests. What are the rising issues and major areas of conversation in their industries? This can help you avoid spending the time and effort on top-notch content that doesn’t quite resonate the way you thought it would.
Research can also help you ensure that you’re sharing content in the formats and on the platforms that your audience actually uses. Hinge’s recent research on professional services buyers found that 80% look at a provider’s website to check them out, and about 60% use social media platforms like LinkedIn.
This makes these important places to share your content. The average buyer used 3.2 of these methods to learn about a firm, so it’s important to make sure your educational content is available everywhere your audiences might look for it. If your content represents your lead generation superhighway, you have to give prospects at every stage of the sales funnel a convenient on-ramp.
As your content marketing evolves, make sure to avoid falling back into promotional or sales-oriented content. This is one of the easiest ways to undermine your credibility and lose the viewer’s attention, so it’s a point worth revisiting over time. Think of it this way: every time you provide content, make sure the reader leaves learning something useful they did not know before.
Qualifying leads through content
Targeted content doesn’t just build your authority in the marketplace – it can also help you qualify leads. As your audience grows more and more familiar with your content, prospective clients develop a deeper understanding of your organization: how you think about industry challenges and the issues on which you are authoritative.
Over time, many potential clients will make the decision to learn more, act to establish a business relationship, or instead pursue other avenues. Some will engage increasingly closely with your content – after reading your blog posts, they may trade their email to download a piece of premium content like an ebook. After reading the ebook, they may be interested in a webinar or free consultation. Targeted email marketing and smart content offers can help these leads qualify themselves.
All of which can save firms substantial time and expense in following unqualified leads. A recent study by Hubspot revealed that the average cost of a lead generated by inbound marketing techniques (those driven by content marketing) was 60% less ($134 vs. $332) than leads generated from more traditional outbound marketing tactics.
Content marketing is timely, available every day and every hour, and ready at the moment of a prospect’s need. Content marketing is not bound by traditional geographic limitations. It is quick to access and cost-effective to deliver. Perhaps most powerfully, it can be shared throughout your industry by prospects, influencers, and others with similar interests, offering firms a tremendous and continuous opportunity to build their brands and grow.