If lead generation is a challenge for your B2B tech business then you have a number of options open to you across the broad spectrum of outbound and inbound marketing. For our target market where outbound doesn’t really work, then inbound marketing is the best option with paid ads and organic search the two main categories to consider.
Paid ads provide the the fastest path to leads (the sprint) while organic search takes much longer (the marathon) but can become a perpetual source of leads.
While paid ads will generate leads very quickly if done properly, once you stop running the ads, the leads stop. Conversely, organic search can take an age to establish a presence that search engines will recognise and reward with first page rankings and which will ultimately generate leads.
So, which do you do? Ideally both and certainly paid ads if you’re in need of leads in the short term. However, a long term content marketing strategy (for organic search ranking) provides the opportunity for perpetual leads and helps you position your business as an authority figure in your market.
Before proceeding further, let’s dispel the theory that organic search is ‘free’. A well run content marketing strategy requires content which costs money or time, meaning both paid and organic have a cost associated with them. Paid ads tend to have more obvious metrics (the cost of a click, the conversion rate, then the cost of a lead) but they also require lead magnets (which means content marketing costs)…
Neither is free, both have costs; paid ads have a much lower time to leads (almost zero) and can be turned on and off; organic is more perpetual in nature, takes much longer to generate leads and the content marketing engine needs continuous stoking.
Why does it take so long? If you’re in a business area that is competitive from a keyword standpoint then it can take up to a year of consistent effort for your content to rank on the first page of search engine results.
Why does it need continuous stoking? Content marketing is a little like Hotel California – you can check out but you can never leave – meaning, you’ve got to keep generating content otherwise, having done all the hard work to rank in search engines, they’ll think you’re less important if you stop producing content and you’re ranking will slowly fall.
So what are we talking about with content marketing? From a search engine ranking standpoint, we’re referring to content on those web pages that are publicly facing and visible to the search engines. You’ll probably have some relatively static pages that help visitors understand how you help solve for their problems and then a blog or equivalent where you can be more dynamic and mix up the type of content you produce.
In our experience, a weekly blog post of >500 words is a good way to build your ranking.
Writing about what? Hopefully you’ve done the keyword analysis that tells you how those with problems you solve for actually search for those solutions. If you then have 20 or so keywords that you want to rank for, that will help you with the content of each post. Maybe 40% of your posts can be about your top 5 keywords, 40% on the next 15 keywords and 20% of your posts can be more free form on topics of the day within your industry.
These are just broad guidelines based on what we know works and apologies for skimming over the ‘how’ of keyword analysis etc. We’re just trying to establish the need to produce content.
Writing a weekly post you will, at some point, get writer’s block so enlist help from others within your company, or others in the industry with guest posts and, if that fails, then get creative.
One trick that works for us is topping and tailing something you want to say with another event. For example, on Halloween, how can you write something as an introduction about Halloween that ‘leads’ into your topic and then how can you end by putting a bow on the post with a link back to Halloween? That makes writing the post more fun for you as you’ll likely have to do some research outside your normal work life and there’s the challenge of creating the ‘top’ and ‘tail’.
Here’s a Halloween example we produced for one of our clients. The ‘top’ or introduction link is the Halloween tradition of Druids to prophesise at Halloween which we linked to the megatrends [prediction] we wanted to discuss (in the context of that client’s industry). The ‘tail’ or link back at the end is, in this case, just the sign-off, “Enjoy your trick or treating!”
Content marketing is a marathon. Have you got your shoes on yet?