Perhaps the most important core tenet to marketing and advertising success, one that we build our careers around, is that it doesn’t matter how great a business’s services or products are without clients. For companies focused on business-to-business (B2B) marketing, the goal is to market to groups of end-users instead of individual end-users, which makes generating leads extremely challenging. You’re ultimately selling to savvy and very discerning business decision-makers and c-level executives, and you need a targeted strategy for B2B content marketing and lead generation to catch their attention and get their buy-in.
B2B leads are tricky because you’re marketing to marketers and selling to salespeople. They know all the tricks that you know. The best way to generate quality B2B leads is to genuinely provide value.
— Anastasia Iliou, Marketing Manager, Rain
B2B decision making doesn’t happen in a vacuum.
— Kenzi Wood
Great brands are built on great stories. In early days of mankind, stories were a great way to communicate around the campfire, and they are still effective today in attracting the best employees and customers. People do not remember facts and figures but if you tell them a story that touches them emotionally you get their attention and they want to hear more.
People need to be educated, informed and/or entertained so figure out how best to tell your story in a way that makes them pay attention and breaks through the noise. Focus on the benefits to them not the features of your product or service. Stories create fans who will help you sell! My best tip is to stop selling and start sharing.
— Paige Arnof-Fenn, Founder & CEO, Mavens & Moguls
Our traffic analysis shows that approximately 17% of our sessions are direct and from organizations that we’ve seen previously, but did not capture a lead. This suggested that someone within an organization was doing research and then recommending us to a peer or manager. To capitalize on this, we wrote and used inline promotion of a number of thought leadership white papers targeted at executive business buyers. With a clear call to action and explicit identification of the target persona, we increased inbound leads by 32% for this scenario. This increased the number of executive buyer contacts by 293%.
— Andrew Hatfield, Director of Product Marketing, Portworx
There are many lead generation tactics B2B marketing professionals employ to build a client base, but data is starting to point to content marketing as one of the strongest components to integrated and stand-alone lead generation strategies. B2B content marketing has become so integral, that a 2018 Content Marketing Institute study showed B2B businesses dedicated 25% of their marketing budgets to content marketing
Storytelling Isn’t Just for Individual Consumers
B2B content marketing isn’t focused on the hard sell, at least not on the front end. Instead, it’s about appealing to the stakeholders managing businesses, who are all focused on maximizing profitability and improving the services they provide to their clients.
Storytelling rules in B2B! Each of your actions must be accompanied by a story that will form a physical picture.
— Tim Absalikov, Co-Founder & CEO, Lasting Trend
How do these decision-makers and stakeholders go about finding potential partnerships that will help them improve their business?
The same way any of us seek out ways to improve ourselves or find products we might need around the house: they take to the internet via their desktop or mobile device, bring up their favorite search engine, and search for ways to improve their business. And this is where marketing strategies that incorporate multiple forms of relevant, story-driven content truly shine.
The best type of content a B2B company can create to generate leads is an inside look type post. These posts help educate and tell a story to potential clients about the process you undergo to deliver your services. This seems to make them more trusting and they will more likely move forward with you.
— Will Cartwright, Owner & CMO, SMP Nutra
B2B customers are much like their B2C counterparts. Nine out of ten business decision-makers are looking at reviews before making a purchasing decision. They want to read stories, reviews, and testimonials from businesses like theirs with problems like theirs. Unlike B2C customers, B2B consumers are also looking at more information, and for more extended periods.
— Moriah John, Digital Content Producer, Moriah Digital
Regardless of the format, if content is crafted to provide solutions for a particular industry, then professionals in that industry will find it in targeted searches.
The more specific the content the better for B2B lead generation, particularly for high-touch, high-ticket value sales.
I am starting a company in the healthcare space, where there are number of rules both on a federal and state level on how marketers can be paid for providing services to practitioners. ZocDoc has been pushing the boundaries in this area and recently received a legal opinion from a state agency. When I was looking for a healthcare lawyer, I actually googled the ZocDoC decision and saw which lawyers had written commentary or analysis on the decision. We will be selecting one of these lawyers as our legal counsel.
By writing on this very narrow topic, the lawyer was signaling that they specialize in the area which I am most interested in. When choosing a vendor, I want a vendor that has a product that meets my specific needs. By writing on topics that are relevant to my industry and company, they indicate that I am the type of client they are set-up to serve.
— Marc Prosser, Co-Founder & CEO, ChoosingTherapy
Blog posts strategically optimized around user intent are most effective for generating leads. Such blog posts are designed to perform well in search and attract organic traffic, as well as in paid advertising where they attract leads by answering their needs, objections, or providing actionable advice on how to solve problems.
This type of content provides real value to the user and, as such, is highly effective at attracting them into your funnel. Just a few high-quality blog posts have helped one of our clients’ website rank for 1,500 new keywords in two months. This is organic alone; Additionally, we were able to use the blog posts in various paid campaigns which brought additional traffic (22% increase) and sales.
— Madalin Durca, Digital Marketing Director, Digital Silk
The best content I’ve found for lead generation is blog content. We use our blog to cover topics that keep our ideal buyers up at night, then we have opt-in forms around within the post to generate leads. The copy we use on our opt-in forms too is very specific, pointing out a pain our buyers have, enticing them to convert.
Bottom line: we’ve found blog content and opt-in forms effective for collecting leads. We often see a 2.7% conversion rate after publishing a new blog post.
— Victor Ijidola, Content Lead, Premium Content Shop
Content plays such a key role in the decision-making process that 47% of buyers will consult 3-5 pieces of content before they engage with a single sales representative for your organization. Creating content that pushes your website to the top of search results is sure to capture the attention of the industry’s top decision-makers, thus laying the groundwork for future business relationships.
We get the best results for the content we write around specific keywords. For example, one of our most recent pieces was optimized for the keyword “call widget”, which gets a few thousand searches on Google every month. The article we wrote on this keyword gets 30% more traffic than everything else on our website at the moment and it has the highest number of demo requests (about 65% higher than all of the other articles we have on our blog at the moment). It seems that the best content for lead generation is the kind of content that people are actually searching for, not the kind of content that you think people will find useful.
— Dennis Vu, Co-Founder & CEO, Ringblaze
In my experience SEO is great for driving B2B leads. The best way to do this is build a long form content asset based on keyword research. This content asset we created ranks for 100’s of keywords, has secured multiple links, and driven 1,000’s of visitors. This type of content is great for B2B as it attracts links, leads, and traffic.
— James Norquay, SEO & Content Marketing Director, Prosperity Media
For many industries, and specifically in the B2B world, it’s very hard to find a topic/keyword where the search intent is directly to find/buy a solution like your own product. Your aim should always remain to keep content as close to the brand and product as possible. You have to always look for keywords where the reader intent is close to what you’re selling and track only relevant metrics: number of leads, number of sales, conversion rate, etc.
One form of content that we’ve found effective for generating B2B leads are doing alternative/competitor types of posts (e.g. 9 of the Best Zendesk Alternatives and Zoom Alternatives for Team-Wide Video Conferencing). When creating these types of posts, we’re looking to either target brands that are direct competitors or have similar product offerings, as well as companies that offer a product that targets verticals or use cases that would be a good fit for our product.
In terms of numbers: our Zendesk post has generated multiple links for us, which in turn has resulted in generating consistent organic traffic. More importantly, we get multiple leads in the form of email subscribers.
— Josh Brown, Marketing Manager, Helpjuice
There’s one type of content that proved to be very effective for us: alternatives to our popular competitors. We’ve created dedicated comparison pieces for all major players in our niche. Since they’re all quite popular and usually expensive, the corresponding keywords have relatively high search volumes and low keyword difficulties. People are always looking for “something similar, but more affordable”.
All this helps us get enough monthly organic traffic so that we can generate around 30 high intent leads each month. We don’t even really promote these articles anywhere, just optimize them for keywords like ‘alternatives to [competitor1]’, ‘competitor1 vs competitor2’, etc.
The biggest trick to this tactic is to organically show your product in a good light while staying objective and honest. Otherwise, you will lose those leads faster than you think.
— Anastasiia Khlystova, Content Marketing Manager, HelpCrunch
Let’s dig into some of the formats that are most effective in catching the attention of stakeholders and see some examples of companies that have leveraged these formats to great effect.
Create Content Without Boundaries
Content can stand alone as the primary driver of your inbound marketing strategy to engage potential customers, drawing them to your website and ultimately your sales team. More often, complex content becomes the foundation for creating smaller, versatile content that can be deployed in new formats across multiple platforms, as broken down in the HubSpot graphic below.
The best content I’ve found for consistently generating B2B leads is high-level industry content that’s either in the form of a round-up or in-depth tutorial. One of our top-performing B2B lead generating posts is a round-up post of Google Ads scripts. The content of the post is relatively high level and is more suited towards pay per click managers who work in large companies and agencies as opposed to your regular Google Ads user.
As the content is full of automated scripts that readers can use themselves on their own ads, it gives them a tremendous amount of value. Usually, these scripts are very hard to find and are often hidden on various websites, but by putting them all in one place, it’s a great resource. This means they’re much more likely to share it, link to it, and bookmark it, which drives even more traffic and keeps them coming back to our site. Since users looking for Google Ad scripts are clearly interested in automation for their pay per click ads, it’s also a great way to introduce ourselves as an automated PPC SaaS tool.
In terms of traffic and stats, that page alone generated 2,201 pageviews with an average time on page of 12 minutes and 12 seconds in March. Considering the average monthly search volume for Google Ads scripts is 200, it’s definitely over performing. That’s because as well as ranking organically in Google, it’s also been promoted by some large influencers and companies in our niche. Since publishing, we’ve naturally acquired 10 backlinks to the piece without any content promotion, so with some outreach, I’m confident we can get it to 20+.
SEMRush, the SEO tool for online marketers has regularly shared our post on their social media to their audience of over 118,000 followers, resulting in a lot of retweets, likes, and mentions to our resource, which in turn has helped us bring in a lot more traffic and leads. If this was just your average opinion piece or 800-word article, then there’s no way they would have ever shared this.
— Sam Carr, Marketing Manager, PPC Protect
We’ve found that Illustrations such as graphics and plain texts are working better than videos for us. We believe this is because our audience is mostly CTOs, CEOs, and engineers who like to quickly go through information without having a video setting up the pace. We discuss relevant topics for our audience and make a link to manufacturing, which catches attention and positions us as experts in the field.
— Eulises Quintero, Content Manager, TITOMA
In my experience, the best performing marketing content are customer case studies that include clear and concise descriptions of how a solution created a material difference in a customer’s business. The description needs to be followed by a customer quote that is analytical or emotional; a prospective customer needs to identify with the rationale or connect with the emotion a customer expresses. And, the highest-performing case studies need to express metrics in either raw data (i.e., grew registration conversion from 4.25% to 6%!) or an expressed percentage or ratio that resonates (i.e., grew my DAU as a percentage of my MAU by 150%!). Finally, a case study must endorse the support and business content as knowledgeable, helpful, and dedicated.
— Aaron Burcell, CEO, methinks
Throughout the marketing industry, however, trends point to four types of content that are best for generating leads in the B2B industry.
Long-form Blogs Are the Multi-Tool of B2B Content Marketing
Blogs are quite helpful in generating authentic leads in B2B content marketing. Blogs written by industry experts such as the departmental heads are helpful in getting the attention of the right audience. It helps in getting better Google rankings as well, especially after the BERT update.
— Damien Martin, Marketing Executive, Shufti Pro
The most successful of our articles are based on actual problems that our tool may solve or, at least, help with.
— Kasia Majewska, Marketing Executive, NapoleonCat
With 81% of B2B companies using blog content as a marketing tactic, chances are you’ve explored the medium and might even have a blog attached to your business. While you might be creating content on a scheduled basis, are you creating effective blog content?
In our case, blog posts have been the best type of content for B2B lead generation. We’ve tried a bunch of other types of content, even ones that required 3rd-party software but we’ve found ourselves going back to blog posts. The best types of blog posts for us are informative and educational pieces. Such posts as Client vs Customer, Phone Etiquette, Types of Customer Service, etc. These articles managed to get thousands of organic views and convert a certain percentage of that traffic. Through these blog posts, our leads got to know our brand, our expertise, and, in many cases, the use cases of our software. All of this helped them convert to trial users and, later on, paying customers.
— Jakub Kliszczak, Marketing Specialist, Channels
Studies show that top-ranking content in Google searches falls into an average length of between 1100-1300 words. Articles at this length provide the right mix of information and value to potential clients.
I’m a firm believer in giving all of the information away for free. Like running a hotel, it’s not the knowledge of how to do something that gets it done, it’s the execution. I wrote a hotel SEO guide that currently ranks number 1 in Google USA, UK, and Australia. This post has brought thousands of customers to our website in the last year. From my point of view, giving great information for free isn’t just a way to bring customers to our website, it’s a way to build trust before they even see our pricing or speak with a sales agent. It’s well worth the time, effort, and investment.
— Jase Rodley, CEO, Rank Defender
Long-form blogs can be broken down into smaller, consumable pieces of content that can be leveraged across social media platforms to generate interest and drive traffic back to your website as part of your inbound marketing strategy.
Blog posts also provide the scaffolding for other lead generating tactics, such as search marketing. Integrated throughout your content, search marketing leverages keywords and other information to optimize your website for search engine visibility.
Lead generation often overlaps two stages of the buyer’s journey: awareness and consideration. The type of content that is best suited to generate leads depends on the goal of your target persona. Our most effective piece of content in terms of lead generation has been one of our comprehensive guides; in the past year, this guide has generated 956 submissions, 755 new contacts, and 1 customer. On a monthly basis, this guide consistently generates 20-30 new contacts.
Long-form content, like guides or pillar pages, provide multiple opportunities for your potential customers to find you through search. In addition to normal searches, voice searches are more frequent now thanks to virtual assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Hey Google. Users are asking the Internet questions hoping to find answers. When you provide your answer, your visitors and potential customers will find it. Once they are on your pillar page, you have an opportunity to ask for their contact information and put them into a marketing stream.
When properly optimized, in-depth (and free!) content encourages brand trust and authority in the market as well as search visibility.
— Mark Whitlock, Marketing Manager, Golden Spiral
The best type of content for lead generation for us have been long-form product comparisons. Our post on ProvenExpert alternatives gets lots of traffic from potential customers researching a new app to use instead of ProvenExpert. While we don’t get too many views on this piece of content, the conversion rate is exceptional: 8% compared to the 2% we usually get from our other content. In other words, the traffic volume isn’t all that great but there is a huge potential for conversions because people looking for these keywords are looking for an immediate solution.
— Carsten Schaefer, Founder & CEO, crowdy.ai
Search engine optimization, or SEO, allows your content to act as a beacon for individuals searching for the types of services and products offered by your brand. Salesforce is a fantastic example of a B2B company leveraging a blog to grow its business into a powerhouse CRM provider.
Videos Drive Traffic Like No Other
One of the most effective and useful tips to market your content is to convert your blog into interactive visuals in the form of Infographics, quizzes, and videos. Written content is undoubtedly useful but today visual materials such as infographics or videos are outperforming.
Because the human processes visuals 60,000 times faster than text, it is far simpler for people to remember visual information than the same information in a written form. That is why marketing videos and especially infographics are all the rage now for increasing traffic to your website.
— Rameez Ghayas Usmani, Digital Marketing Executive, PureVPN
With 50% of consumers searching for videos related to products they intend to buy before visiting brick-and-mortar stores, it’s clear that video has become a driving force in marketing. In fact, consumers love video so much that 43% of respondents to a HubSpot survey say that they want to see more video content from marketers.
As a B2B business, we’ve found that video podcasts have increased both our traffic and conversion rates.
We started our podcast back in October 2018 and witnessed monthly search traffic increase by 240% in one year. Our referring domains also increased by over 40%. The podcast content has allowed us to generate both traffic and exposure on multiple platforms. For instance, our audio podcast is syndicated on Apple, Spotify & Stitcher, while our video podcast is published on our company YouTube channel.
Best of all, our blog posts now featured embedded video and audio of the related podcast. This way, users can engage through the medium of their choice, and we can enjoy the increased organic traffic while improving on-site content and engagement.
Google has even showcased us in the Podcast section of their search results page when searching for roofing SEO podcast. We’ve received numerous leads that cite specific video podcasts as the reason for their interest and it has allowed us to connect with prospective customers on a personal level, without ever having met them.
— John Matyasovsky, Digital Marketing Specialist, Roofing Webmasters
Video can be leveraged throughout a strategic inbound marketing campaign to attract and drive traffic. The statistics support the efficacy of video content, with web traffic resulting from search activity up 41% in companies using video.
Binge-worthy content has worked really well for us. We decided to create an original docu-series on the first 90 days of onboarding our new Content Director, called Onboarding Joei.
We’re an online learning platform and we allow teams to train employees and clients easily. The goal of the docu-series is to generate brand awareness by creating interest around one of our use cases: onboarding. The main differentiator that made this documentary successful is really the transparency and authenticity. It shows the problems we have and the real challenges our new Content Director, Joei, faces. The most interesting thing about the show is how real it is. We invite people to go on a journey with Joei and get them hooked and really care about what’s gonna happen next. People love the show as they can relate to the real challenges Joei is facing.
— Nicolas Merlaud, Head of Creative Strategy, 360Learning
Adobe Creative Cloud hosts a channel on YouTube where it posts its episodic “Make It” video series, geared towards educating businesses on how to use Adobe products to solve everyday challenges, showing the value of the company’s suite of products.
Webinars Establish Your Expertise, Generate Trust
Webinars are incredibly effective for B2B lead generation. With webinars (live or recorded), you can accomplish multiple steps to build trust with your new leads. A webinar allows you to introduce yourself and the brand, deliver valuable information or tips related to your product, service, or industry, and get real time feedback from attendees.
Plus, with a webinar of engaged attendees, your offer is presented to a captive audience. For anyone who registers and doesn’t attend or attends and doesn’t take your offer, the follow up with these leads can be customized and personalized to advance sales beyond the webinar.
— Katie Childers, Owner & Founder, Smart Girl Digital
Prospects sometimes need that personal touch to buy into your services, and 43% of B2B marketers use webinars to add a face-to-face component to their content marketing initiatives. Webinars also instill a degree of trust through expertise: by educating your audience, you’re showing them the value you can bring them at a personal and business level.
One of the most effective types of content we’ve seen for generating leads are webinars, But it’s not always the registrations that result in the highest quality leads. The Q&A inside of webinars results in actual conversations and meetings with sales teams.
Here’s an example. A B2B client we’re working with is targeting c-level executives in the healthcare industry. At the top of the funnel, we use infographics to attract traffic and backlinks, and downloadable whitepapers to generate leads. We follow these up with webinar registrations. Webinars allow us to get more time with these hard to reach stakeholders. In an average webinar, we’ll see 20 attendees, but 25% of them will engage with questions. This is what results in meetings: the sales team can reach out to say let’s schedule some time to talk through this in more depth.
— John Keehler, Partner & Director of Strategy, RUNNER Agency
Co-hosted webinars have consistently performed well as part of my B2B lead generation strategy. They are great for generating brand new leads as well as nurturing your existing leads. Running webinars with non-competing, but like-minded companies that share a target buyer persona is a great way to extend the reach of your marketing efforts with no cost. Make sure both parties are clear on what email, social, and paid marketing will be running to promote the webinar.
Over 12 months, this B2B lead generation strategy generated over 2,000 leads with a sales pipeline of $850,000. This approach can also help quickly create follow up content like blog posts, podcast episodes and eBooks.
— Jack Ford, Head of Marketing, streamGo
The Project Management Institute is an exemplary example of B2B webinar content providers who also add value to your organization in helping marketing professionals meet project management certification education requirements.
Research Reports and Case Studies Establish Your Authority
It won’t do you any good to educate readers if you can’t back your information up with facts and research. For B2B marketing professionals, you can’t find a much more data-driven resource than HubSpot. The site uses reports and data culled from its partnerships and services as well as reports from industry experts to provide the B2B industry with data-driven guidance and insight into best practices. Conducting or commissioning your research reports or case studies and creating content linking back to the data establishes your organization as an authority in your industry and draws clients to your services.
As a digital marketing agency that works often with B2Bs in manufacturing, we’ve found case studies to be the most useful content tool for lead generation. Industrial companies and their clients are numbers people. They’re wary of the false sell, and they always have an eye out for the catch.
Case studies offer both the social proof and the results B2B buyers need to feel confident in a company. They’re also a great lead generation tool because they can be gated to gather contact information. B2B clients are looking for solid facts and data, and since case studies offer that, they’re often willing to trade their email and basic contact info to become a lead, in exchange for the information that will help them make the best, informed decision for their company.
— Mackenzie Deater, Content Strategist, Evenbound
The type of content that I have found to be the most effective for generating B2B leads is white papers. The real value with this type of content is not the social media performance but rather driving actual revenue and marketing qualified leads. Creating a series of guides or white papers can also be beneficial to increase touch points with your target audience.
If you are creating guides or white papers you can’t simply post them on your website and expect people to download them. By using social media advertising, specifically LinkedIn Sponsored Content, you can target a very narrow audience matching your buyer personas and promote the piece of content to drive marketing qualified leads.
— Kyle Turk, President, Meerkat Marketing
Build Your Business on the Back of Content Marketing
As B2B buying cycles have evolved other the years we have seen more people become involved in the purchase cycle, and probably due to this, an increase in the length of the purchase cycle itself. What’s more, buyers are preferring to spend more time researching, learning and understanding the various aspects of their purchase independently, before making contact with sales people. All this points to compelling content to drive a sale.
In a complex purchase scenario, it is important to tailor content to the stage of the purchase funnel that the buyer is in. At the early stages of the cycle, for example, thought leadership content, moving on to case studies and more ROI-oriented content in the later part of the purchase cycle.
In general, it’s important for B2B organisations to have content that is topical and engaging, that users want to share because they believe their contacts will find it useful or interesting. Creating a content journey based on a coherent strategy is essential to build trust, and integrating video throughout this journey will help drive qualified leads.
— Anu Ramani, Founder & MD, Isoline Communications
Content marketing should only be a piece of your larger B2B marketing strategy. It should enrich and populate the scheduled newsletter emails you send to your targeted contact lists. It should inform your social media followers who are trying to improve their businesses. Content should be the path clients follow back to your website, where your pages are designed to capture their information and put them in contact with your sales team. With an effective integrated approach built around your B2B content marketing strategy, your entire marketing machine will be primed to maximize lead generation and your organization will thrive.