Optimizing the B2B Content Marketing Funnel: Turning Contacts into Clients
Congratulations, you've taken the first step towards increasing your online presence and implemented a B2B content marketing strategy. You're regularly publishing insightful and shareable blog posts and amplifying your content through social networks.
And you're growing your email list by offering longer-form premium content behind a simple registration form in your blog posts and on your website. If you are doing it right, your content funnel probably looks something like this:
Then you realize you aren't converting your new contacts into new clients.
So where's the disconnect? Let's explore some things you can do to improve your current situation and starting seeing real ROI from all the time and resources you've put into your content marketing efforts.
Content marketing is not meant to drive revenue overnight. It takes time to build a following and grow your reach. Often, especially in the professional services space, your base of followers or readers may not necessarily be your ideal client..
The first mistake many firms make is to conclude that their content is not directly reaching their target audience (ideal client), and give up on producing content altogether. This usually happens after just a few months of launching a B2B content marketing strategy.
What's the point of dedicating so many resources to creating and promoting great content if it's not generating any ROI? Sure, traffic to the website is up and your email list has grown, but where is the revenue? Time to go back to what you know works: personal relationships and client referrals, right?
Wrong. That's not to say that personal relationships and client referrals aren't extremely important. They absolutely are. But what most firms do not understand is that many referrals are coming from people that weren't even previous clients. Our recent research on referrals concluded that over 80% of firms received referrals from someone who wasn't a client. Instead, referrers grew to trust a firm's expertise based on thought leadership through speaking engagements, articles, social media, and more. This is called an "expertise-based" referral.
The second mistake firms make is to dismiss those same followers that are amplifying their content solely due to the fact that they will not become paying clients. Without the amplification from others, your content will become stale and eventually die. If your target audience is not the digital-savvy type, who is going to share, link to, and grow your content?
Be patient and give your content time to grow and rank higher. Most firms will not be able to rank on the first page of search engine results right away. A brand new blog post has no authority when Google first indexes it. It takes time to build up natural links and authority.
Set Up Email Workflows
You've created great content, and have been successful in growing your email list with new contacts from premium content downloads. Now what? At this stage, most new contacts aren't quite ready to pick up the phone and have a conversation with you, let alone sign on the dotted line for your services.
This is where firms make their third mistake. This is not the time to ask for business. Now is the time to start nurturing these contacts through email marketing workflows, also know as drip or lead nurture campaigns. While some contacts are further along in the buying cycle, they are most likely still learning more about your firm.
The idea behind an email workflow is to continue to offer additional resources to your new contacts over a certain amount of time through various emails. Depending on your typical sales cycle, these workflows can span anywhere from a month to several months and include anywhere between three and ten emails. The best practice is around seven touch points.
These new contacts have already been to your website. They've most likely seen and/or subscribed to your blog. Email workflows are not the place to include offers like "check out our website" or "subscribe to our blog." Instead, consider offering a related premium piece of content such as a guide with your first follow email touch. Depending on the length of your typical sales cycle, this first follow up should come between five and seven days after the initial content download.
One week later, send another email with a more substantial piece of content such as a recorded webinar with slides.
After another week, you might send a case study of a project that demonstrates how your firm solved a particular problem. Make sure it relates to something similar to the initial content download. If your contacts are still consuming your content at this point, there is a significant amount of interest being portrayed. That brings us to my next and final point.
Don't Be Afraid of the Hard Offer
Many firms struggle with the final step of optimizing their content marketing funnel. The good news is it's actually easier than you think.
Many firms offer a free consultation or free assessment as part of their typical sales offering. The key is to offer these consultations or assessments in an indirect way as to not feel pushy. The best way to do this is to set up "thank you" pages that are similar to the landing pages offering an opportunity for prospects to contact your firm directly.
Depending on the software you use, you'll most likely want to set up separate landing/thank you pages for your email workflows. Once a contact clicks on your offer to download your case study, they are directed to a landing page that includes a direct download link for said content as well as a brief description of what you offer in your free consultation or assessment.
Wording such as "Ready to talk now?" are popular for this type of page. You can then describe the value of your free offering and provide a contact form on the same page.
The goal is to get a direct contact form submitted in which you can require additional information such as a phone number, company, role, etc. At this point, it is much less likely that your prospect will feel that your request for additional information is intrusive as they are giving you consent for direct contact.
In the end, your sales and/or business development team members will be grateful for well-qualified, high-interest leads. Be patient, nurture your leads, and don't be afraid to ask for the opportunity to have a conversation. The revenue and ROI will follow.
To create content that reaches prospects at each stages of the sales funnel, download a free copy of the Content Marketing Guide for Professional Services.
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