Whatever your sector, lead generation will no doubt form a key part of your content marketing activity. E-commerce businesses need to grow their mailing lists so they can convert subscribers into customers, B2B companies need to nurture new contacts to guide them through the conversion funnel, and nonprofit organisations need to grow their communities to maximise success when it comes to donations, volunteers and all-round exposure.

Wherever it ends, it all starts with a lead.

The relationship between brands and their audiences is all about give and take – and if you’ve tried your hand at lead generation in the past, you’ll know that leads don’t warm themselves. Today, our friends at Paragraft are breaking down a step-by-step process to planning, creating and launching content that’s destined to turn users into leads and leads into paying customers or clients.

Define your user persona

Getting to know the people who comprise your audience is a crucial first step as part of any marketing activity – to speak their language, you first need to understand that language’s nuances. This means analysing the data available to you – be it through Google’s suite of search analytics tools, user insights offered by the world’s leading social media platforms or other third-party software – in order to establish who your customers are, how they engage with your website and, if this data is there to find, what their needs, interests and motivations are.

Armed with these user insights, you can piece together a fully formed user persona. This is an asset that will prove highly valuable when it comes to refining an offer with the best chances of appealing to those needs, interests and motivations. If you can solve an age-old problem you know your users have, streamline a key aspect of the life you know they lead or treat them to a perk you know they’d appreciate, you can use the data insights at your disposal to sculpt an offer tailor-made for your customer base.

Put together an irresistible offering

Lead generation more often than not comes down to the strength of the offer that’s on the table. In a great many cases, personal details (ranging from an email address or phone number to a user’s job role, company website or even details of their current needs) are requested by lead gen forms in exchange for the tip, discount, gift, resource, ticket or whatever other form this ‘freebie’ may take. This makes it less of a freebie than an exchange and, as such, makes it essential for your offering to stand up on its own without the help of your supporting content.

A powerful offering appeals to an existing need, whether it’s an informational need (fulfilled by an educational resource), a financial need (fulfilled by a discount, free trial or bulk-buy saving) or a practical need (fulfilled by a suitably practical solution). Your offering is a promise to your customers and is more than the mere thing that’s up for grabs – its value is judged by the benefits that ‘thing’ will bring to your users.

Build your creation and promotion plan

Before you can create your lead-generating content, you first need to decide on a suitable format based on the nature of your offer and the best way to communicate this offer to your audience. Blog posts are, of course, a popular choice – but viable alternatives include custom landing pages, webinars, ebooks and white papers, to name but a few of the available options. It’s crucial to ensure that your offer feels like a natural, logical conclusion to this piece of content so as to make converting feel like the only sensible choice when the time comes.

Before putting proverbial pen to paper, it’s crucial to understand how and where your lead-generating content will be published and distributed. This promotion plan should influence how your content is framed, formatted and written – as the message needs to be tailored to the medium – and there are countless options available in terms of distribution channels.

From organic channels such as search engines (primarily Google) and social media platforms (including but not limited to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube) to the paid alternatives, give your lead-generating content prime placement to each of these and an active, airtight promotion plan, budget and schedule in order to maximise visibility and, in turn, the number of leads generated.

Get all eyes on your offer

Finally, it’s time for the main event: your piece of shiny, new lead-generating content. Needless to say, a magnetic headline is first on the agenda. This headline – whether it sits atop a blog post, custom landing page, marketing email or ebook download page, for example – is your first and perhaps last opportunity to draw users in with your all-important offer. For that reason, your headline should be punchy and succinct, and should make the appeal of your offer abundantly clear.

Your body content is your opportunity to get into the nitty-gritty of your offer, laying out the features and benefits as plainly as you can so users know not only what you’re offering, but why they should care – topped off with a forceful yet persuasive call-to-action. Whatever shape your lead bait takes, a contact form is an essential tool for gathering the basic personal details you need to take this interaction to the next level. Ensure this form is immediately visible upon landing (in other words, comfortably above the fold) and make sure to use distinctive text formatting and colouring so there’s no chance of this vital element being ignored.

There’s a lot riding on this lead-generating content, which is why A/B testing is such a popular option for content marketers looking to test the waters and experiment with different headline and call-to-action options.

If you’ve brainstormed multiple versions of your page, post or email and want to use the power of data insights to hone your lead bait, embrace the benefits of A/B testing and show different versions to different users. With the resulting engagement and conversion data in your arsenal, you can analyse results to arrive at your most high-converting piece of lead-generating content that’s proven to deliver engaged new contacts for your business.

Tori Atkinson is the lead content creator for Paragraft, providing bespoke content writing services for ambitious brands looking to find and nurture their brand voice.

Lead generation stock photo by Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock