First things first – we need to understand the difference between generating traffic and generating leads.
Let’s begin with the former. Traffic generation is all about your top of the funnel (ToFu) content marketing efforts. That is to say, it is your blog (and other content) output that has the sole purpose of simply driving visitors to your website. As well as blogs, your videos, infographics and other higher sharable content also form your ToFu traffic generation strategy.
But when it comes to lead generation, the tactic is slightly different, and it all revolves around gated content and those all-important sign-up forms.
What’s “gated content?”
Good question. In fact, it’s a very good question, because when you understand what gated content is, you pretty much understand what lead generation is.
Gated content refers to content that is only accessible in exchange for information – often the name of the person wishing to access it, along with an email address and perhaps the name of the company that the person works for.
It's also often referred to as lead magnet or an opt-in incentive. And they come in many shapes and forms as you'll see from this article on great lead magnet ideas.
As content marketers, we capture this information by way of a form that the recipient has to fill out, before we “open the gates”, as it were, and provide them with access.
How does this fit in with lead generation?
Very simply. When someone goes to the effort of filling out a form to access a piece of content (which, in this day and age, is in fact quite a big ask of our visitors), they are indicating that they are not merely passive visitors to our website, but actively and more deeply engaged with what we have to offer.
In this sense, the person who downloads our gated content can no longer be considered a mere visitor, but a lead – and leads are potential sales contacts.
Get a healthy catalogue of gated content at the ready on your site, and you’re halfway towards a strong strategy that supports lead generation.
Ok, so, those are the basics of lead generation. We attract visitors to our website through ToFu content marketing. From there, we dangle additional content in front of them, and, upon capturing their information in return, generate leads.
Lead generation is only the first step of what should form a robust and well-oiled system. We often call these systems marketing funnels or sales funnels.
If you're unfamiliar with these terms or would like to learn more about them, check out this post on how you can build a successful marketing funnel.
Editor's note: GetResponse has launched a tool that helps you with that. It's called Autofunnel and you might want to check it out.
However, for successful lead generation, we need to understand some of the finer details of the process – so let’s dive into what those are…
When advertising our gated content, we must ensure that our visitors (who are not yet leads) are suitably enticed to click the button that will take them to it.
So, for instance, let’s say that we’re in the content marketing business. We’ve written a blog entitled “How to Get Started With Content Marketing.” We’ve promoted it on social, and have attracted quite a few business owners who are now reading the post.
We’re careful not to give the whole game away in this article, because we want these business owners to download our piece of gated content: a free eBook entitled “The complete guide to content marketing for SMEs”.
So, what we need to do is entice them to do so – and, in order to do that we need a strong call-to-action (CTA).
A CTA is a button, image, or sometimes a message that entices our visitors to take some form of action. In lead generation terms, this action will be to navigate to a landing page where the gated content can be accessed.
It’s important, then, that our CTAs are enticing. More than that – unmissable. Even more than that – irresistible. For the purposes of driving downloads of our eBook, perhaps the best practice would be to display a nice bright image of the eBook’s front cover that shows the title – “The complete guide to content marketing for SMEs” – and a button beneath that says something like “Free download”.
You can and should experiment with CTAs. You may find, for instance, that “Download now” produces better results than “Free download”, or that some images work better than others. The only way to find out is to experiment – so do that.
Whatever happens to work best, when visitors click on our CTAs, they are taken to a landing page – so let’s consider landing pages next.
Landing pages are specially designed pages that have a distinct purpose. For lead generation, this purpose will be to fill out a form in exchange for an offer – in our example, the offer being the free download of our “Complete guide to content marketing” eBook.
Importantly, whatever the content is – you may opt for a case study instead of an eBook, or a white paper, access to a webinar, a research report, a video, or what have you – it has to be of high enough value to get people to fill out that form and surrender their information.
As you can imagine, CTAs play an important role on landing pages, too – as does the whole design and layout of the page. Split and multivariate testing is important to maximise completion rates – but, once a visitor has filled out that form, received the offer and given up their personal information, a lead is generated.
And that, dear readers, is how lead generation works.
Back to you
So, in closing, let’s summarise the steps you need to take to start generating leads.
Step 1 – Create amazing content that drives traffic to your website.
Step 2 – Create a range of high-value gated content that only those serious about doing business with you will want to access.
Step 3 – Advertise this gated content on your site, and link your strong CTA to a dedicated landing page.
Step 4 – Design your landing pages with conversions in mind, provide a form that is easy to fill out, and ensure your CTAs on this page are as strong as possible.
Step 5 – Conduct split testing across steps 3 and 4 to maximise click-throughs and downloads.
Those are the basics, but what other lead generation tips could you offer our readers? Let us know in the comments below.