Jan 24, 2018 5:52:40 PM
You put endless hours into producing an amazing content offer – the whitepaper to end all whitepapers!
Up it goes on the company website, and THEN…
What happened?? All those hours of work, and no leads are coming in. You might even start to believe inbound marketing doesn’t work. After all, you did everything right. There is no reason why you shouldn’t be pulling in leads right and left.
The reason: Your buyers have changed and you have not.
In a 2017 marketing research study, HubSpot pointed out that only 22% of businesses are satisfied with their conversion rates. A full 63 percent of businesses named generating traffic and leads as their greatest challenge.
The most interesting takeaway from this is, while the number of businesses using inbound marketing has increased, most of us are unsatisfied with the results. One of the biggest reasons for this, in my opinion, is they are still using the same tactics that worked 10 years ago.
We can't keep doing the same things over and over and expect great results. Digital marketing just doesn't work that way. If your lead generation strategy still relies heavily on these tactics, you may be missing out on great opportunities.
Whitepapers and ebooks were the cream of the crop when inbound marketing burst onto the scene.
Marketers couldn’t get enough of them. Every time I went online to read a blog there was a catchy offer waiting for me at the end, usually starting with the words “The Ultimate Guide To...”
It worked like a charm. People wanted the content, and happily filled out a form to get it. Businesses built solid databases from scratch, and worked their email magic until they had a brand new customer.
Things are a little different today.
Buyers are a lot more choosy about what content they will trade their personal information for.
Your guide to “How To Sharpen Pencils More Effectively" is simply not going to generate as many leads as it used to.
There is so much content out there, chances are good that no matter how helpful your gated offers are, visitors can get the same information somewhere else on the web without filling out a form.
In 2017, HubSpot helped us find a new perspective on this.
They recognized the change in user behavior and came to the conclusion that locking up your best content behind a form could actually hurt your strategy more than help it. They are now encouraging marketers to publish long form content on their websites for all the world to see.
This content is called a pillar page. Like whitepapers, pillar pages provide information to visitors looking to explore a topic in depth. The difference is they also provide structure and support to your content hierarchy.
A pillar page is a master resource on a given topic, supported by “topic clusters." Topic clusters are subtopics, or blog posts, that link to your pillar page, providing extra resources to users and context to search engines.
This “new" strategy is the future of SEO for content creators, and over the next two years, I predict brands will open the gates and allow their ebooks and whitepapers to freely roam the digital countryside.
This would’ve been marketing heresy a few short years ago.
“What do you mean I should let people access my best content without opting in?” people would cry. “How am I supposed to get leads??”
As it turns out, you can generate leads from pillar pages.
HubSpot has data that shows people still prefer reading long form content in a PDF. Similar to how people browse for something good to read in a bookstore, visitors scroll through the page and, if they like what they see, they will download the PDF and read it at their leisure.
As for other conversion offers on your website, try experimenting with resources people don’t come across every day. Checklists, templates, quizzes, and industry research reports are great lead gen offers - the more niche oriented the better. Put a unique spin on one and see what happens.
Blogging is the most critical way of optimizing your website. That hasn’t changed.
What has changed is marketers are realizing that conversions don’t begin and end their websites.
I’ve written about the excellent keynote speech Rand Fishkin gave at Inbound17 about conversion rate optimization. He made the interesting point that we should look beyond the website when producing content and engaging audiences, and not just as a link building tactic.
Interesting advice from a man who built one of the world’s leading platforms for optimizing websites, and he’s absolutely right.
Brands used to talk a lot about creating content on other platforms, especially social media. But most of them do little more than auto-schedule posts that go out on social media. Every post is nothing more than a link back to your website. No interaction with followers. No value to anyone.
People are now starting to rethink the value of posting real content on other platforms.
More than ever, I am seeing “growth hack” posts about using sites like Quora and Medium to provide high-quality interactions with buyers.
Social media is another obvious place you can generate leads off site. Facebook and LinkedIn Lead Ads allow you to place content offers in front of an audience that matches your buyer persona, and capture leads without them having to fill out a form. Instead, the ad pre-populates their name and email address in the form itself, and all the user has to do is just tap the button.
This brings us to another point about conversion rate optimization.
Landing pages are not as effective as they once were, not only because of the declining interest in opting-in for whitepapers, but also because it takes too many clicks for the visitor to get what he or she wants.
Streamlining the process so users can get what they want almost instantly will improve your results. Lead ads are a great example of this.
On the subject of social media, we need to focus on LinkedIn for a minute.
This platform has undergone a seismic change over the last year or so, and brands that are trying to play by the old rules are quickly getting left behind. Here is what you need to know:
If you want a crash course on personal branding and storytelling on LinkedIn, read Josh Fechter’s article “How I Reached Over 100 Million Views on LinkedIn in 5 Months.” He's a content marketing champ, who has tamed the beast called LinkedIn.
Lead generation isn’t necessarily getting harder. It’s changing, and you can bet that once a new tactic goes mainstream it’s never long before buyers shift their focus in a new direction. The best advice I can give you today is to stop hoarding information.
Turn your next ebook into a pillar page. Put your next blog post on Medium (or wherever your buyers hang out), instead of on your blog. Start building your personal brand on LinkedIn with authenticity and transparency. You’ll be happy you did.