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Alright, I know. I still owe you a “What is B2B Content Marketing” blog post. If you really need me to answer that right now, please just use my contact form. However, this topic has come up a lot lately, and I figured it needed an answer. Not to mention, I have a super awesome tool that I use to create my lead magnets pretty easily*. I gave it away a bit, but lead magnets are a critical step in your B2B content marketing funnel.
This post was updated on March 3, 2020.
What is a B2B Content Marketing Funnel?
Why thank you for asking! A content marketing funnel is a path you’ve created based on a pairing between your ideal buyer persona and the buyer’s journey. Its the content your customers or clients need to consume that builds their trust and your credibility until their ready to make a purchase from you. A traditional content marketing funnel often looks something like this:
I’m trying to keep things relatively simple, so this is the bare basics. So you can see, on the left at the beginning of the content journey, there are blog posts. Now your site visitors arrived at them some way, like:
- Social media (organic or ads)
- Organic search
- Search engine PPC ad (Google, Bing, etc.)
- Email because they’re already on your list.
However they got there, they’re there and reading your blog post. Then a suggestion comes up somewhere on the page for them to download a relevant piece of content they have to give their email for. In the content marketing world, we call these a few things:
- Email opt-in
- Gated content
- Downloadable freebie
- Lead magnet
And this gated content, opt-in, magnet can take on a few forms:
- Exclusive email newsletter (not the best unless you can show you’re providing unique value)
- White Paper
- Case Study
- Research Report
- Email Course
- and the list goes on.
A Bit More About My Favorite B2B Lead Magnets
You can turn a lot of things into a lead magnet. Some types though work really well. I think it’s because people expect to have to give their email address for them. My favorite lead magnets are ebooks, white papers, and case studies.
Ebooks Can Be Just The Right Complement to an Article
Ebooks have taken on so many different shapes and forms. They can be just a few pages or more than 100. Many ebooks include all sorts of graphics, and the links can lead to other relevant content. You can take the “Ebook of All the Things” approach, or you can make your ebook very specific. It’s whatever you want to do.
White Papers Satisfy that Numbers Itch When We Have a Big Decision to Make
You have prospects that really like you, so far. But how do you satisfy the logical side of their brain? Or perhaps they need to offer information to a more analytical party within their organization. How can you help them with that? You can send them a white paper. White papers are persuasive, research-heavy documents that use facts to create a compelling perspective.
We make decisions with our emotions and then justify those decisions with facts. If we can’t justify the decision, then a purchase is unlikely to be made. That’s where your persuasive white paper comes in.
Case Studies Use Storytelling and Data to Deliver a 1-2 Punch
Case studies show a prospect what it’s like to work with you. Perhaps you have software that will help their business run better. But the question that prospect is holding in their mind is “How?” Case studies, or success stories, walk the reader through the entire process, from start to finish.
Not to mention, case studies typically make use of happy client/customer quotes. Paired with data from their results, and you satisfy the emotional and logical sides of the brain. (Yes, I know there aren’t really sides. Humor me.)
We are way past the age where you can say “Join my newsletter!” and get great results. Not unless its a primo newsletter with fans (like a job listing newsletter for example). In order to get the best results, you should offer something special for joining your list.
In This Era of Social Media, Why Do I Need an Email List Again?
According to the DMA National Client Email Report, for every $1 you spend on email marketing, you’ll make $38 on average. That’s impressive ROI!
Now if you want that sort of ROI, you’ll need to show some serious love to your email list. Not just random broadcast emails. If you send relevant emails to the portions of your list who want to receive them, you could increase your revenue by 18%. So list segmentation and personalization is key.
Wait, you need me to write another post about email marketing? Well okay. I’ll add it to the list. Subscribe to my email list so you don’t miss it! (See what I did there?)
Have You Heard About the Marketing & Sales Cycle?
Many of the top marketing minds agree that the marketing or sales funnel isn’t exactly a funnel. It’s more like a cycle. At least it is when you consider the fourth stage: Delight.
Another critical point I’d like to make is that the name “lead magnet” is a misnomer. You can use ebooks, case studies, white papers, quizzes and more at all stages of the sales cycle. Let’s just call them content assets.
Some content assets work better at some stages of the sales cycle than others for B2B lead generation. This is proven statistically. Content variety is a critical aspect of a strong content marketing strategy. Let’s talk this through.
At the Awareness stage, an ebook may be a great way to attract new prospects (top of the funnel). However, at the Consideration stage, a white paper is just what a prospect needs to provide solid data and take the measure of your company’s credibility. 40% of B2B marketers say that case studies move prospects to buy at the Decision stage. That’s because prospects are wondering what it’s like to work with you. What results will they get?
Ah, but what about at the Delight stage? Well, there are a variety of ways you can delight your current customer with content. That includes training on your software or even a team-building exercise presented in a video or ebook.
If you’re a consultant looking to Delight your current and past customers, you might consider creating a content library full of micro-learning opportunities that only they have access too. The exclusivity increases the perceived value.
Sometimes, you can take content and provide suggestions for how they can use it for their clients. I.e. you’ve written an article for your website, but some of your clients could send it to their prospects to keep communication flowing. Now that’s delightful.
Do People Really Want to Hear From My Company?
Do people want to hear from your company? No.
Does your target audience want to hear from your company? Heck yes, they do! If your offering genuine value and education for your client or customer, then yes they definitely want to hear from you. Although…
They don’t want to hear ABOUT you. Nope. They want to hear about their problems, and how they can be rid of them. That’s how you shape your content. You focus on your prospect’s problems, not your solution.
So you have to show them in your blog and social media that you are the best. That you mean business. That you’re a problem solver. Then they’ll want to see your gated content because they’ll be sure it’s amazing as well.
- Blog posts
- Case studies
- White papers
- and more!
So if your competition is satisfying your target audience’s need for knowledge, then they are engaging with those customers and earning their trust. All while you’re waiting for that same target audience to come find you.
And now we’ve arrived at the creation stage of lead magnets (or content assets). This is the piece of content you need to help grow your email list, or support your prospects/customers at every stage of the sales cycle.
What Should My B2B Lead Magnets Be About?
The easiest lead magnets are made from repurposed content. What is repurposed content you ask?
Repurposing content sounds pretty self-explanatory — it’s when you take a piece of content and change it so it serves a different purpose When you repurpose a piece of content, you’re doing one of two things (or both): changing the format of the content, and/or changing the target audience for the content.. via The Purpose of Repurposing Content – HubSpot Blog
So repurposing content could be taking a few different shapes: take a few blog posts and turning them into an ebook. Or even one blog post could do the trick. You could also take the slides from a webinar and offer them as a download or post them to Slideshare. Podcast or videos? Take those transcripts and turn them into an eBook. See how this works?
Also, don’t be afraid to take that existing content and expand on it in your new content asset. You can always add internal perspectives to demonstrate expertise. Or what about additional examples to further illustrate a point?
Topics for B2B Lead Generation Content
As for the topic of that lead magnet….You want that to be the answer to a pressing problem for your audience.
HR services firm? Write an eBook about avoiding compliance issues and why this saves money.
Business development consulting firm? Write about how small businesses in your niche can secure new business. Or better yet, how they’re accidentally driving business away, and how they can fix that.
Corporate wellness company? Write an eBook about how companies can take on the problem of employee burnout and bring wellness back into their company culture.
Financial services firm? Writing about the common mistakes small businesses make with their accounting and how you fix/avoid them is sure to attract your target audience.
In all of these examples, you can ask for an email address in exchange for the content. By giving you permission to contact them, these people prequalify themselves for your message in an email sequence later on.
Your blog should have a few major topics that you cover because they’re of interest to your audience. At Defy The Status Quo, that’s content marketing and business management for consulting firms and professional service companies.
But you’ll notice in 4 of the paragraphs in this section, I addressed a particular industry. You can do that with your lead magnets too. To illustrate this, I have one more example.
If you’re a financial services company creating a lead generation content asset, then perhaps you could create it with several industry slants. Instead of common mistakes small businesses make in their accounting, what about common mistakes ecommerce businesses make? Or fitness centers?
Creating hyper specific B2B lead magnets will also help you further segment your email list, leading to better email marketing results.
What About Brand New Content for My Lead Magnet?
Some of the very best content assets are unique and/or hard to obtain information. Maybe a white paper or research report, for example. When you make content assets like this (keep in mind a white paper can be 15-20+ pages), it’s important to make sure that you’re really addressing something your prospect/client wants to hear about.
This brand new content can be repurposed though, and you can create blog articles, videos, slideshows, and webinars with it as inspiration.
How Do You Make a Lead Magnet Quickly?
Well, I have a program I use to make lead magnets for myself and for my clients*. The beauty is that I can turn around a professional-looking product and because it’s so efficient, and I can do it relatively quickly. The program I use is called Designrr.
So in the video below, I’m going to show you how I usually repurpose my content for my business or that of a client. That’s right, the video below shows me creating an eBook I’m actually going to use. And it’s only 9 minutes long. I add two blog posts to this eBook and chat at you in less than 10 minutes. Can’t beat that!
If you’d like to learn more about Designrr, you can click here*. (*If you do choose to purchase the application, I will receive a small commission, but it doesn’t change the price for you at all!)
What Does the Content Marketing Funnel Look Like When You Incorporate Lead Magnets?
So when you can create lead magnets quickly from content you’ve already invested in, what does your content marketing funnel look like now?
The reason your funnel changes so much is because it becomes easier to repurpose content for each blog post. If you follow the recommendation of investing in long-form content, you could even make an eBook for one blog post (blog post + workbook anyone?). This offers you more chances to capture lead information. Which means more chances to woo them through your awesome email marketing.
Your Landing and Thank You Pages
Once you’ve created your lead magnet, you’re going to want to design a landing page. An ideal landing page has a clear call to action with nearly everything above the fold (unless you need to include a sales letter here). We don’t usually create lengthy sales letters for free lead generators though.
It can be really helpful to have a visual of the lead magnet. And of course, you’ll need your form. You’ll need to decide what you want from your prospects in exchange for your content asset. Will it just be their name and email? Or will you ask for a bit more?
The more valuable the lead magnet, the more you can ask for.
Email Autoresponder Series
Depending on the lead magnet, your new list members may funnel into your general welcome email series. But if you’ve created a high-value lead magnet, or may one that is hyper-specific, then you’ll want to create a customer autoresponder series to introduce the new list members to your brand.
If you’re a management consultant and you created a lead magnet about building stronger teams for SaaS companies, then your autoresponder should be tailored to that audience. Include case studies from your clients in that industry for added impact!
Besides the lead magnet itself, the landing page, thank you page, and an autoresponder email series are really all you need to capitalize on new leads.
So if you’ve been blogging for your business, or you are thinking about it, don’t forget to consider the “so what” of blogging: your marketing and sales goals. You blog to generate qualified leads. You generate qualified leads to make sales. When you generate leads through content marketing, you generate quality leads that qualify themselves by giving you their contact information. And your content marketing lead generation is open 24/7, 365 days per year via Google. So go for it!
*Some of the links above are affiliate links. Meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you choose to make a purchase.