3 Types of Marketing Content that Drives B2B Sales Leads

Want leads? Chew on this: lead generation is the most important organizational goal for 85% of marketers, according to the Content Marketing Institute’s 2016 Benchmark, Budget and Trends. The most important goal!

If you’re not using marketing content to drive B2B sales leads, you might be missing out on attracting a potential buyer’s attention—and getting a hold of their contact information—while they’re in the early stages of the process. The sooner you can start nurturing the lead through your sales funnel, the better.

Use Effective Content at the Top of the Funnel
There are many types of marketing content—case studies, landing pages, white papers, infographics, and direct mail postcards, just to name a few—and they all support the sales process in their own unique way. Some of them even do double or triple duty, like the blog post, which can educate and inspire anyone from the casual web searcher to the loyal customer.

But we’re focusing here on marketing content that does particularly well in the stage of top-of-the-funnel sales lead generation, when your goal is

to attract those who have defined their challenge and are exploring potential solutions. You want to entice them—with relevant and compelling content—to provide their contact information in exchange for even more content (or a sales call, depending on your strategy) and move them to the “hot prospect” category.

So here are 3 of our top picks for lead-generating marketing content:

1. The White Paper
Hubspot provides a great definition of a white paper: a persuasive, authoritative, in-depth report on a specific topic that presents a problem and provides a solution. It speaks right to the heart of a potential lead because it delivers a thoughtful discussion of their pain points around their business challenge while offering some hope in the form of a solution.

Among the hallmarks of a white paper is it contains industry insights and third-party research lending credibility and an outside perspective. It’s academic in nature because it seeks to inform the reader and get them thinking “outside of the box” at a time when they’re eager to find a new way of doing things and open to change.

Importantly, the white paper does not contain a sales pitch. It’s not designed to “sell” your company’s solution. While it should definitely speak to your unique approach to solving the reader’s challenge, its main job is to deliver an essentially objective message—a message that, naturally, leads them toward wanting to learn more about your solution.

2. The Webinar
Ah, the digital seminar, the go-to venue for today’s busy professional. And if that professional is investigating your marketplace to solve a business problem, you want to get in front of them with relevant, informative, thought-provoking content—and deliver it in a personal, high-impact way.

Content-wise, the top-of-the-funnel-focused webinar has a lot in common with the white paper. It provides participants with high-level insights into business trends associated with their pain points and gives some actionable advice on solving their problems. And it highlights just enough of your company’s solution to wet their appetite to learn more.

While webinars can also be effectively leveraged to pull in leads closer to the middle or even end of the sales cycle, a webinar designed to attract early-stage sales leads shouldn’t make a hard sell. It should be crafted to educate in a way that’s at once persuasive yet non-threatening. At this point, potential buyers want to know what other companies are doing and get a lay of the land. They don’t necessarily care about you or your solution—and they certainly don’t want to be sold on it.

But showing them that you understand their challenges and have the resources to help them can keep them engaged. Your goal should be to establish thought leadership, share what you know, and invite participants to take the next step. And having participated in your webinar—they’re officially a lead—so you can guide them where you want to take them.

3. The “Freebies”: Templates, Tools, and Worksheets
Here, we’re referring to downloadable assets designed to help a could-be customer explore their challenges, solve a problem, or test out a new idea while providing a useful offer to encourage engagement. All the while getting a taste of what your company can offer them. For example:

  • A marketing agency can provide a free landing page template
  • An accounting firm can offer access to a free calculator tool or plug-in
  • An insurance agency can give small businesses a worksheet to help them assess their financial risks

An advantage of this type of content, especially in the early stages of the buying process, is that it gives a person hands-on exposure to your solution. It provides them with immediate value without any up-front investment—and that’s a really compelling way to build their trust, and ultimately, their willingness to buy from you.

A Word to the Wise
What we’ve been talking about here is content that’s relevant to decision-makers during the awareness phase of their buying process. It’s content that has the potential to drive them to the action of providing you with their contact information. But we haven’t said anything about actually GENERATING the sales lead.

That’s because there’s no magic bullet or one-size-fits-all strategy. Effectively planning your lead-generation strategy takes an understanding of where and when to connect with your future customers during their research and discovery stage. One thing’s for sure, their search probably does not start on your website because they don’t necessarily know about you. But you can consider soliciting leads by:

  • Using SEO to drive traffic to your blog and “teasing” readers with white paper highlights, then putting the white paper download behind a lead-generation form—you’ve got your lead!
  • Promoting an informative webinar over social media, through your networks and connections or via paid channel advertising—when they sign up, you’ve got your lead!
  • Attending an industry conference or local networking event and giving new contacts access to a special template, tool, or worksheet—and since you have their business card, you’ve got your lead!

You’ve got your lead! Now it’s time to nurture them…and guide them gently down the sales funnel. Stay tuned for more insights into using marketing content to support your prospective customers, every step of the way. Contact us to learn more.