Everyone’s gotten the memo.
C’mon, it’s 2020.
They know what happens when you ask for their emails in exchange for a gated piece of content.
You’ll probably start sending them a series of autoresponders emails that they may or may not be interested in – and they’re well aware of this.
Still, many of them would sign up just because they genuinely need your content.
But the truth is: they’d rather you left your content ungated.
So should you gate content or not for B2B lead generation?
Here’s a fact: You can generate leads that convert into sales without gating content and coercing people to give you their emails.
So today, you’ll learn the lead generation process that helps us get 5 to 20 sales leads after every single post we publish on this blog, without gating content.
Also, we’ll share how we get email subscribers at a decent 2% conversion rate — without gating content.
(2% is obviously not a big deal, but when you’re selling a service that brings in four figures per customer every month, it’s at least “okay” to convert readers into email subscribers at 2%.)
You’ll also learn how a B2B SaaS company generates at least 200 leads (trial signups) every month from their blog content.
But before we get into it, we should get on the same page about what exactly B2B lead generation is — especially in 2020.
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
- What is B2B lead generation? (The 2020 version)
- 1. Within the first 5-20 seconds, establish relevance & authority
- 2. Make timely and strategic offers within your content
- 3. Get your quality & quantity mix right
- 4. Stand your ground about buyers you work with
- 5. Put your content distribution success under your control
- 6. Take your ROI measurement beyond last-touch attribution
- In the end, content should help you generate leads
What is B2B lead generation? (The 2020 version)
B2B lead generation is the process of launching campaigns to attract your ideal buyers and persuading them to fill out your service interest, demos, or product trial forms, showing an actual interest in your product or service.
In more specific terms:
B2B lead generation IS NOT the process of generating emails through an ebook, whitepaper, or some other content piece — without getting them to show an interest in doing business with you.
Anyone who, with their contact details, signs up for your ebook, newsletter, or any other content piece is only an email subscriber, not a lead.
We prefer to not term them “marketing qualified leads (MQLs)” either.
In reality, they are not “leads” until they indicate that at least they’re open to the idea of buying your product or service.
Now that we’ve crystallized the definition of lead generation in B2B, let’s get into how we generate 5 to 20 leads after each post we publish.
(Bonus: you’ll also see how a B2B SaaS gets a minimum of 200 signups every month through their blog content.)
Our #1 B2B lead generation strategy is publishing targeted content.
If you’re wondering what that means, targeted content is the type of content you create to target an ultra-specific audience, usually in a way other audiences may not find useful.
And there are six ways I’ve found to always get more B2B leads through targeted content:
As a B2B business, your potential buyers are like a sleek, moving train.
They don’t have time to stop and load up on useless cargo. They will only slow down to take in your content if it can prove quickly that it’s of great value to them.
So if your content doesn’t establish relevance and authority fast, showing you’re a professional who knows what’s relevant to them and how to address it, they’ll bounce.
Generally, they’ll take only 5-20 seconds to determine if they want to spend more time with your content.
But to confirm our hypothesis on how much time B2B folks spend on content before deciding to read it in its entirety, we asked three professionals to share their own experiences:
Jared Fuller at Drift said it takes him, say, five seconds to determine whether a blog post is worth his time:
PatientPop’s Sales VP Kevin Dorsey says it takes him ten sentences max to decide whether or not to keep reading a blog post he comes across:
Patrick Campbel at ProfitWell mirrored the same thoughts:
They’re all saying the same thing: “We spend 5-20 seconds to determine whether we want to read your content.
“Show us relevance and authority in your content within that time frame, and we’ll give you some attention.”
So if your content is relevant and quickly establishes you as an authority in your readers’ minds, you have a good chance they’ll spend 2-20 minutes of their time consuming it — like they do ours:
This is why we try to showcase relevance and authority within the first few lines of any content piece, and you may have even noticed that with this article.
The result? Visitors spend at least two minutes consuming our content — which is usually enough time for us to present them with a relevant offer.
How do you showcase authority in content?
Here are a few working ideas:
- Start your intro with a relevant image that instantly shows you get your customer
- Open with a thought-provoking question, statistic, or statement of fact
- Share some little-known research in your very first line
- Make the most of every word, line, and sentence in your content, dishing up information readers will find helpful — which is something quite rare these days
This way, you’ll keep potential buyers reading any content piece for at least two to three minutes.
In our experience, those few minutes are usually all the time you need for a potential buyer to read your content and convert into a lead — if you give them the right offer.
Let’s discuss offers and conversions for a bit.
(Author’s note: Get “the good stuff” below)
2. Make timely and strategic offers within your content
While demonstrating authority and relevance keep potential buyers on your content, hard-to-refuse offers are what persuade them to convert.
When the offer is really hard to refuse, generating leads gets easy.
Again, we’re not talking leads as in email sign-ups for content, we’re talking leads as in people showing actual interest in your business — like signing up for a demo, trial, or service.
So how do you make a hard-to-refuse offer — especially within a content piece?
Make the offer relevant to your topic, that’s how
Think of it this way: when you click to read a blog post about lead generation, it shows you’re interested in the topic.
It also shows you may need help with lead gen at your business. So if I’m selling a lead generation tool or service, chances are you may want to, at the very least, check it out.
But then, you checking out my tool also depends on:
(1) My content quality and (2) how I present the tool within my content.
For example, if I present the tool to you right at the top of our content like in the screenshot below — before you have the chance to read a word of the content you came for — you’ll likely bounce off our page or simply ignore the offer:
There are several reasons why this call-to-action (CTA) positioning is not good, but a key one is that people didn’t click the article to read about the tool; they came for content.
So it’s bad UX for them already when the first thing they’re seeing on the page isn’t what they came for.
Honestly, you gotta be careful here.
You could easily turn potential buyers off if you make offers within your blog content inappropriately.
And this would mean all your time, money, and efforts on content will be wasted.
Here’s the right way to position a CTA within your content
Your offers/CTAs needs to be compelling enough to generate leads within a blog content piece. You need to do three things:
- Use a zero-salesy approach to write your content. Prioritize sharing the content you promised readers first. This would help you hold their attention long enough to convert them.
- Position lead gen CTAs 35%, 60%, and 80% into your content to convert readers into marketing and sales leads.
- Make sure your lead gen CTAs speak to a benefit- or pain-specific question related to your topic.
It’s the 3-step process we’ve been using to generate 5-20 marketing leads per blog content.
Without these key ingredients around the offers you display within your content, you’ll have CTAs that’ll leave readers annoyed, bouncing off your page almost as soon as they land on it.
We’ll show you two examples of B2B businesses using these three elements in their CTAs on blog posts:
CTA example #1: Leadfeeder’s trial offer after blog post introduction
With the right messaging, you won’t annoy readers when you offer a free trial after a blog post introduction.
If the messaging is well-crafted and genuinely relevant to the subject of the content they’re reading, they won’t find your offer annoying.
For example, it’s the approach the folks at Leadfeeder are using in their article about MQLs vs SQLs — and they get at least 200 leads every month for it.
How they’re doing it: Right after the third paragraph in their intro section, they offer readers a free trial:
When we asked Leadfeeder’s CMO, Andy Culligan, how this trial offer at the third paragraph of the intro works for them, he said:
Here’s the lesson here: You don’t have to wait for readers to digest your entire article before nicely presenting them with a relevant (lead generation) offer.
Wouldn’t it annoy them, you ask? Again, it depends on how you’re presenting your offer.
In Leadfeeder’s case, they strategically presented their offer within blog posts by:
- Asking a topic-relevant question. The post was about B2B lead generation and they asked: “Ready to get more leads from your website?” [CTA here].
- Presenting the CTA after the intro, just after they’ve educated readers a bit about the topic.
- Using a zero-salesy approach — the article prioritized the content they promised in the headline, lead generation strategies.
Bet you can see it for yourself: They’re using the three CTA ingredients we mentioned to strategically position lead gen offers within their blog posts, resulting in hundreds of leads per month.
CTA example #2: Selling our expertise through content
In our case, we’re not a B2B SaaS business like Leadfeeder.
But as a service-based B2B business, some of our leads reach out to me (Victor) directly, and sometimes they fill out our forms.
This way, we get up to 20 leads within a week or two of publishing new content.
And because we’re selling content services, our work and expertise show from the content we publish. So it’s usually an easy sell for us.
CTA example #3: Convert readers into email subscribers
As you know, while some of your readers are going to read your content and sign up to become a sales lead, some other readers won’t be ready to become sales leads immediately.
So you want to bring them into an email list – so you can keep following them up and they can sign up on your offer when they’re ready.
Essentially, you need to set up your content piece in a way that it converts both email subscribers and sales leads.
In our case, we’ll set up conversion strategies for people ready to sign up now and folks who would rather join your email list and decide later.
So, as we target converting 5 to 20 sales leads per post, we also target email newsletter subscribers – giving them a compelling reason to sign up (we have effective copywriting techniques we use for this).
For example, this article you’re reading converted at 2.76% in the week we published and started promoting it:
And these were subscribers from our target buyers – B2B and SaaS companies.
They were cold traffic; yet, they signed up without us gating our content.
3. Get your quality & quantity mix right
I mentioned earlier that we get 5 to 20 leads after publishing every content piece on this blog.
That simply means if 1 blog post = 5 to 20 leads, then:
2 posts = 10 to 40 leads
3 posts = 15 to 60 leads
…you get the idea.
But there’s a reason each of these posts generates this number of leads; it’s the quality of content — and if you’ve come this far, we’ve managed to keep you going because you find this post is chock full of encouragement and useful information.
If the content were crappy, it simply wouldn’t convert.
But what does “quality content” even mean?
It’s the type of content that performs two functions:
- Satisfies your potential customer’s purpose for reading it
- Achieves your goal for creating it — which, in this case, is lead generation
But more often than not, creating quality content gets in the way of content creation.
And this has created some subtle debate on the subject of quality vs quantity in marketing over the last year.
One school of thought says: “One piece of high-quality content is way better than seven pieces of less-quality ones.” — AKA 10x content.
Others say something along the lines of:
“Keep shipping, deploy fast, and stop obsessing over quality.”
Now, which school of thought should you follow?
I’ll tell you where we stand: Never sacrifice quality for quantity, but ship quality content quickly and frequently.
Is this just us or do other marketers agree with this concept? We went out and asked reputable folks in marketing to weigh in with their thoughts:
Daniel Meler, Founder of InfiniGrow, says quality content is better than quantity for obvious reasons; focusing on quantity doesn’t give you much at the end of the day.
Expert SaaS marketer Pedro Cortés agrees that focusing on quality over quantity helps you create campaigns and content that are evergreen and will keep working for you:
Especially because we’re in 2020, not 2002 — as Hugo Macedo of Unbabel argues — not-great content pieces only add to the noise already out there and add no real value to your business or your potential buyers.
But quality shouldn’t stand in the way of execution, says Jakub Zajíček — PitchGround’s CMO:
Yet, not being focused on quality doesn’t mean you produce crappy content, says Jakub.
“We shouldn’t be obsessed with quality. But it doesn’t mean that we should produce shitty [content] or provide low-quality service. It all boils down to whether the [content we produce] REALLY solves the problem for the customer.”
Takeaway lesson: It’s not all about shipping content, but it’s not all about quality either. Obviously, both are important.
But here’s something you can run with: Produce quality content in as much quantity as possible.
4. Stand your ground about buyers you work with
“If you’re looking for the cheapest option in the market, we’re not your best fit.”
Using statements like this across your content marketing and overall lead generation process will help you repel unfit buyers and convert qualified leads.
Especially if you’re selling high-ticket B2B products or services, it’s best you let buyers know, while they’re reading your content or signing up for your product/service, that your offerings aren’t the cheapest in the market but has better or some much-needed value.
Matthew Toth, a 10-year sales veteran at Neat, says he’s used this line a lot and it works:
It’s a simple principle:
When buyers realize you’re not trying too hard to get them to buy but rather to help them make the best decision, they become more convinced you genuinely care about them.
5. Put your content distribution success under your control
Content distribution is hard, mostly because much of it is outside your control.
You can’t control whether or not people are going to like your content enough to share it. You also can’t control influencers sharing it.
But there are three factors you can control to be successful with content distribution:
- Content partnerships
- Content relevance
Let’s address these three — one after the other:
I. Content partnerships:
Look for brands or influencers who have your customers’ attention, and offer them value in exchange for sharing your content with their followers.
How you approach this partnership is everything, though; it’ll determine whether or not those influencers or brands will favor your content partnership request.
So how do you approach them?
Like the answer to many marketing questions, it depends.
In B2B, the value you’d propose to any influencer or influential brand will rarely be money.
Most of them have their own jobs or businesses. So most of them won’t accept money to promote your content.
So you have to get creative.
Here are a few things you can offer them instead of money:
- A link: depending on the authority level of your site, this might be good enough for a share
- Relevant eyeballs on their brand: tell them you have their target customers engaged
- Getting featured among prominent experts
But of course, influencers aren’t the only way to promote content, you also have:
- Facebook: Their detailed targeting functionality helps you reach your ideal customers through the types of content they need.
- SEO: Like we always say, optimizing content for search is a smart move; after you run distribution on most other channels, they stop working almost immediately. But SEO is one channel that keeps driving traffic for months.
Distribution is a numbers game.
The more channels you have to distribute content, the better.
Uberflip‘s CMO Randy Frisch says it like this:
“Content distribution is mostly a numbers game. The more channels you promote your content with, the more results you get. From our research, we’ve found that with each channel you distribute content, you can increase your views by 8x on average.”
So instead of using only content partnerships to amplify reach, think:
- Content partnerships + Facebook Ads
- Community content promotion + Facebook Ads + SEO + LinkedIn Ads
And so on… the more the channels, the more traffic and leads you’ll get.
III. Content relevance
Content relevance is a huge aspect of your distribution process, and it’s another aspect of distribution you can control.
How does content relevance affect promotion or even lead gen?
Well, the brands or influencers you’re looking to partner with will have a hard time promoting your content if they don’t see it as relevant to their audience.
Remember, they’re not accepting money to share your content. They’re looking at content relevance to share.
So you want to make your content highly-relevant to their audience. And relevant content is simply content that is:
- Actionable; contains advice that can be acted upon to get specific results
- Timely; it’s useful right now
Other reasons influencers share content, besides relevance
We asked B2B professionals what criteria they would use to define B2B content that is share-worthy:
Yam Regev of Zest says share-worthy B2B content is T.A.R.T. Here’s what that means:
Matthew of Automation Wolf argues that people share stuff that makes them look better — and this is especially true in B2B.
Colin Campbell of Sales Hacker says he considers content that follows the “Think, Feel, Do” framework to be excellent and sharing-worthy:
But in general, relevance is the #1 thing that your influencer or brand partners will look for when you ask them to share your content. They’ll be looking at your content and asking questions like:
- Will my followers appreciate this content?
- Will sharing this content make me look good?
- Is this content useful for them or does it just regurgitate old information?
If your content is relevant, influencers (and their followers) will more easily promote it.
The more they promote it, the more eyeballs on your content, and the more leads you get.
(Author’s note: Get “the good stuff” below)
6. Take your ROI measurement beyond last-touch attribution
Data was a big deal in 2019 and it’ll be a bigger deal in 2020 and beyond.
The more data you have, the better you’ll be able to make decisions that’d help generate leads in higher quality and quantity for your business.
So beyond attributing conversions to the last point of conversions, you need data on:
- First touch attribution: tracking leads who first found you through a particular content piece but came back months, weeks, or days later to convert on some other page.
- Linear attribution: tracking leads who read or viewed one or two content pieces along their journeys but didn’t sign up exactly when they read your content.
- Topics your target customers found most useful over the last year, six months ago, or even yesterday.
- The relevance of those topics today.
- Other topics they’re interested in.
- Topics that generate leads the most for your business.
- Channels and platforms your buyers pay attention to every day
There are several tools to find all this data.
By now, you probably know BuzzSumo helps you see which topics are relevant to your target buyers at any time.
There’s InfiniGrow — a tool that lets you see the touchpoints that lead to conversions on your site, including the specific content that created those touchpoints:
Google Analytics still works; it keeps getting better, in fact. You can set up conversion goals and attribution models. You can set it to track first, last, and linear touchpoints.
We’ll have to create another post to address this more thoroughly; this one’s already exceeded 3,000 words.
But the bottom line here is that with the right data, you get a good perspective of the channels and content that helps you generate high-quality leads.
In the end, content should help you generate leads
There’s some sort of debate in marketing today about whether leads from content should be tracked painstakingly or not.
The truth is, you may not be able to precisely track every single lead you get from content. But as we’ve shown you above, you can still track a lot of them.
If you can’t track leads at all, then there’s a problem — because you can’t figure out whether money spent on content is yielding any leads.
There are lots of ways you can track your content marketing performance today, and the more data you have on your content performance, the better.