We recently exhibited at the Toronto GROWtalks which gave us the opportunity to speak to a lot of really interesting founders of start up companies from the GTA. We were also lucky enough to listen in on a few of the conference presentations as thought leaders shared their advice with a packed roomful of entrepreneurs. One speaker in particular, covered a topic a topic near and dear to our hearts – Content Marketing and the art of acquiring new customers through Inbound Marketing.
Laura Fitton of HubSpot spoke about the need to be ‘useful’ in how we relate to our potential customers, "attracting them through relevant, easy-to-find content when they need it.” One thing she said struck a particular chord with me – that is, “don’t think about building lists, think about how to build relationships.”
A question I come across repeatedly in my role as a B2B marketing consultant is – “what can I do to quickly generate more leads for my business?” Yes, we are all looking for 'the silver bullet' – the one tactic that will drive hordes of qualified buyers our way, shortening a 6-month sales cycle to 6 weeks. The reality is, it takes more than just one tactic, event or campaign to build a pipeline of qualified leads.
Throughout my career, I have seen many companies take short cuts when it comes to generating leads. Taking short cuts such as renting or purchasing lists of emails addresses may seem like a good idea in the near term. However, consider the fact that over time you will most likely be labeled a spammer and damage your brand. Companies that invest in building a well thought out approach to their marketing plan - one which tackles the question of how to drive traffic to their website and how to convert that traffic into a database of prospects - earn dividends in the long run. Think about adopting a strategy whereby you create demand through educational and informative marketing content. Help your prospects realize that you understand the particular problem they are facing and let them know that you can help them solve that problem. You can build out your educational content in any form that best suits your audience – be it blog articles, white papers, ebooks, presentation decks, video clips or infographics. And don’t forget to promote and share that content through your company blog and the social media channels you know your potential customers use.
Eliminating list purchases does not mean that you cannot leverage outside help to build out your database. There a many things a company can do to give the database a boost, here are just a few:
- Industry Newsletters Sponsorship: Purchase advertising space in a credible industry newsletter that targets your ideal customer. Use this advertising space to share content such as a white paper or ebook and request that the reader provide a name and email address before providing access.
- Paid Search Advertising: Consider building a pay per click advertising campaign - but be careful with this one. Make sure that you are driving traffic to a landing page where you offer up a piece of valuable content in return for some contact info. I have seen companies burn through a lot of cash with PPC only to attract 'unqualified traffic'. Ensure that you have the time to properly monitor and optimize your campaign.
- LinkedIn Paid Ads: A lot of B2B companies are now looking beyond the traditional search players to include more targeted advertising vehicles such as LinkedIn. You still need to drive your visitors to a landing page and offer up great content in exchange for contact details.
- Sponsor a webinar or event: Partner up with an industry organization that has a captive audience you would like to get in front of. Sponsor one of their webinars or events. For example, a Canadian software company that sells to Human Resources professionals might decide to align with the Human Resource Professionals Association (HRPA).
- Good, old fashioned Direct Mail: Receiving something in the mail has become somewhat of a novelty these days. More and more companies are now finding they can break through the clutter with well a crafted direct mail letter or package. Provide a compelling reason for your audience to respond and give them an easy way to do so - preferably driving them back online to a page where you can collect their email contact details.
The reality is, business leaders that adopt a content marketing strategy have a better chance of building and sustaining strong relationships with clients and prospects. And the more complex the sales cycle, the more important it is to help your buyers make informed decisions each step of the way.