Everyone’s got the memo.
They know what happens when you ask for their emails in exchange for a gated piece of content.
They’re well aware you’ll probably follow them up with a series of automated emails they may or may not be interested in.
Still, many of them would sign up just because they genuinely need your content.
But if you asked them, they’d rather you left your content ungated.
“So I shouldn’t gate content? How would I ever generate leads?!”
No worries, read on and you’ll find out.
In this article, you’ll see:
- the lead generation process that helps us get actual sales leads from the posts on this blog, gating none of them — for example…
- how B2B SaaS company Leadfeeder generates at least 200 leads (trial sign-ups) every month from their blog content.
As a bonus, we’ll also share how we get email subscribers at a decent 2% conversion rate — without gating content.
But before we get into the more tactical stuff, let’s get on the same page about what exactly B2B lead generation is.
What is B2B lead generation?
B2B lead generation is the process of launching campaigns to attract your ideal buyers and persuading them to raise hands, showing an actual interest in your product or service.
And showing an actual interest in your product or service means filling out your service interest forms or signing up for your demo or product trial forms.
In more specific terms:
B2B lead generation IS NOT what’s happening when you generate emails through a gated ebook, whitepaper, or some other content piece.
In fact, anyone who, with their contact details, signs up for your ebook, newsletter, or any other content piece is only an email (or content) subscriber, not a lead.
Internally, we prefer to not term them “marketing qualified leads (MQLs)” either.
Because in reality, they’re not “qualified leads” until they, at least, indicate they’re open to the idea of buying your product or service.
Now that we’ve crystallized the definition of lead generation in B2B, let’s get into how we generate sales leads from blog content.
Our #1 B2B lead generation strategy is centered on creating and distributing ungated content that’s relevant to and helpful for potential customers.
Here’s what the strategy looks like:
1. Within the first 5-20 seconds, establish relevance & authority
As a B2B business, your potential buyers are like a sleek, moving train.
They don’t have time to stop and load up on useless cargo. They will only slow down to take in your content if it can prove quickly that it’s of great value to them.
So if your content doesn’t establish relevance and authority fast, showing you’re a professional (a subject matter expert) who knows what’s relevant to them and how to address it, they’ll bounce.
This means you won’t even get the chance to convert them into leads.
And generally, once a prospect lands on your content, they take only 5-20 seconds to determine if they want to spend any more time consuming the entire content piece.
That’s our hypothesis. But to confirm if it’s valid, we asked three B2B professionals to share how much time they typically spend on any content piece before deciding to read it in its entirety:
Jared Fuller at Drift said he takes, say, five seconds to determine whether a blog post is worth his time:
PatientPop’s Sales VP Kevin Dorsey says it takes him ten sentences max to decide whether to keep reading a blog post he comes across:
Patrick Campbell at ProfitWell mirrored the same thoughts:
They’re all saying the same thing: “We spend 5-20 seconds to determine whether we want to read a content piece that’s probably going to take another 10 mins to complete.
“Show us relevance and authority in your content within that 5-20 seconds time frame, and we’ll give you some more attention.”
So if your content is relevant and quickly establishes you as an authority in your readers’ minds, you have a good chance they’ll spend 3-20 minutes of their time consuming it.
We also know this is true because it’s working for us and our clients. For example, here’s a screenshot of how much time a client’s potential customers consume their content:
In our experience, those few minutes are usually all the time you need for a potential buyer to read your content and convert into a lead — if you give them the right offer or at least tell them about a product or service they need.
So… how do you showcase authority in content?
Here are a few working ideas:
- Start your intro with a relevant image that instantly shows you get your customer
- Open with a thought-provoking question, statistic, or statement of fact
- Share a story from your industry experience about how you’ve solved a problem
- Share a new method for doing something that’s been widely misunderstood in your industry
- Make the most of every word, line, and sentence in your content, dishing up information readers will find helpful — which is something quite rare these days
(Author’s note: Get the good stuff below…)
2. Make timely and strategic offers within your content
While demonstrating authority and relevance keeps potential buyers on your content, hard-to-refuse offers are what persuade them to convert into leads.
And done well, your in-content offers can really be hard to refuse, driving demand and leads for your business.
Again, we’re not talking leads as in email sign-ups for content, we’re talking leads as in people showing actual interest in your business or product — like signing up for a demo, trial, or service.
So how do you make a hard-to-refuse offer — especially within a blog content piece?
First, make your topics relevant to the offers or product you want to introduce in your content.
Second, do what you can to make your content quality as high as possible.
Third, strategically place offers or mentions about your product or service in your article.
Here’s how these three points intertwine to help you create content that drives leads:
- Product-relevant topics are important because attract your ideal customers. For example, if you click to read my blog post about lead generation, it shows you’re interested in the topic.
- Content quality is what determines whether or not you’ll hold your audience’s attention long enough for them to convert. So, again, your content quality needs to be expert level. (Think thought leadership content).
- Strategically placing product or service mentions/CTAs in a product-related content will help draw attention to what you’re selling. Going back to our previous example here: if you’re here read my blog post about lead generation, it shows you’re interested in the topic.
It also indicates you may need help with lead gen at your business. So if I’m mention a lead generation product or service in my content, chances are you may want to, at the very least, check it out.
But how you present your product within any content piece matters.
For example, if I present a product CTA to you right at the top of our content like in the screenshot below — before you have the chance to read the content you came for — you’ll likely bounce off our page or simply ignore the CTA:
There are several reasons this call-to-action (CTA) positioning doesn’t work, but one key reason is that readers aren’t on the article to read about the product I’m selling; they came for content.
So it’s a bad user experience (UX) for them when the first thing they’re seeing on the page isn’t what they came for.
Honestly, you want to be careful when placing product CTAs in any content piece — because you could easily turn potential buyers off if you make offers within your blog content inappropriately.
And this would mean all your time, money, and efforts on content will be wasted.
How to properly position a product CTA within your content
- Use a zero-salesy approach to write your content. Prioritize sharing the content you promise readers first. This will help you hold their attention long enough to convert them.
- Position lead gen CTAs (or product awareness materials) 35%, 60%, and 80% into your content to convert readers into marketing and sales leads.
- Make sure your CTAs speak to a benefit- or pain-specific question related to your topic.
It’s the 3-step process we’ve been using to generate sales leads from blog content.
We’ll show you two examples of B2B businesses using these three elements in their CTAs on blog posts to drive leads:
CTA example #1: Leadfeeder’s trial offer after blog post introduction
Quick question here: do you feel placing product CTAs in your articles will annoy readers?
From my experience, with the right messaging, you won’t annoy readers when you offer a free trial after a blog post introduction.
If the messaging is well-crafted and genuinely relevant to the subject of the content they’re reading, they most likely won’t find your offer annoying.
For example, this is the approach folks at Leadfeeder are using in their article about MQLs vs SQLs — and they get at least 200 leads every month for it.
How they’re doing it: Right after the third paragraph in their intro section, they offer readers a free trial:
When we asked Andy how this trial offer at the third paragraph of the intro works for them, he said:
Here’s the lesson here: You don’t have to wait for readers to digest your entire article before presenting them with a relevant (lead generation) offer.
Wouldn’t it annoy them, you ask? Again, it depends on how you’re presenting your offer.
In Leadfeeder’s case, they strategically present their offer within blog posts by:
- Asking a topic-relevant question. The post was about B2B lead generation and they asked: “Ready to get more leads from your website?” [CTA here].
- Presenting the CTA after the intro, just after they’ve educated readers a bit about the topic.
- Using a zero-salesy approach — the article prioritized the content they promised in the headline, lead generation strategies.
This way, they’re using the three CTA ingredients we mentioned to strategically position lead gen offers within their blog posts, resulting in hundreds of leads per month.
CTA example #2: Selling our expertise through content
In our case, we’re not a B2B SaaS business like Leadfeeder.
We’re selling content marketing services. Our content already shows our work and expertise. So it’s usually an easy sell for us once we mention what we do in our content (like I just did lol) — in a way that’s not overly promotional.
The results we get? B2B marketers consume our content and fill out our service interest forms.
And sometimes, they reach out to me (Victor) directly on social media.
This way, we get leads directly from the content we publish.
CTA example #3: Convert readers into email subscribers
As you know, while some of your readers are going to read your content and sign up to become sales leads, some other readers won’t be ready to become sales leads immediately.
So you want to bring them into an email list; this way, you can keep following them up and they can sign up on your product when they’re ready.
Essentially, you need to set up your content piece in a way that helps you convert readers into email subscribers and sales leads.
In our case, we’ll set up conversion strategies for people ready to sign up for our service right away and folks who would rather join our email list.
So, as we target sales conversions with each article, we’re also targeting email newsletter subscribers—giving them a compelling reason to sign up.
And this approach works for us; for example, this article you’re reading converted at 2.76% in the week we published and started promoting it:
And these were subscribers from our target buyers—B2B and SaaS companies.
They were cold traffic; yet, they signed up without us gating our content.
(Author’s note: Get the good stuff below…)
3. Get your quality & quantity mix right
We get 5 to 20 leads after publishing and marketing our service-related articles on this blog.
That simply means if 1 blog post = 5 to 20 leads, then — all things being equal:
2 posts = 10 to 40 leads
3 posts = 15 to 60 leads
… you get the idea.
But there’s a reason each of these posts generates leads for us, and a huge part of that is the quality of content.
Case in point, if you’ve come this far with this article, it’s mostly because you’ve found the content valuable so far.
If your content piece doesn’t have the quality or value your prospects are looking for, it won’t hold their attention, let alone convert them into leads.
But what does “quality content” even mean?
For us at PCS, it’s the type of content that performs two key functions — at the same time:
- It satisfies your potential customer’s intent for reading it
- It achieves your goal for creating it — which, in this case, would be lead generation
(When your content satisfies these two criteria, we call it T-shaped content; read more about it on our services page.)
But more often than not, creating high-quality content impedes content quantity.
And this has stirred up some debate around quality vs quantity in marketing for a while now.
One school of thought says: “One piece of high-quality content is way better than seven pieces of less-quality ones.” — AKA 10x content.
Others say something like:
“Keep shipping content, deploy fast, and stop obsessing over quality.”
Which school of thought should you follow?
I’ll tell you where we stand: Never sacrifice quality for quantity, but ship quality content quickly and frequently — as much as your resources allow you.
We went out and asked other marketers to weigh in with their thoughts:
Daniel Meler, Founder of InfiniGrow, says quality content is better than quantity for obvious reasons; focusing on quantity doesn’t give you much at the end of the day.
Hugo Macedo of Unbabel argues not-great content pieces only add to the noise already out there and add no real value to your business or your potential buyers.
Yet, not being focused on quality doesn’t mean you produce crappy content, says Jakub Zajicek, former CMO at PitchGround.
“We shouldn’t be obsessed with quality. But it doesn’t mean that we should produce shitty [content] or provide low-quality service. It all boils down to whether the [content we produce] REALLY solves the problem for the customer.”
Takeaway lesson: It’s not all about shipping content, but it’s not all about quality either. Obviously, both are important.
But here’s something you can run with: Produce quality content in as much quantity as possible.
4. Don’t just distribute content, distribute it among potential buyers
It doesn’t matter if your content is getting 10,000 views in one week, if at least 20% of those views don’t come from your potential buyers, the traffic is almost meaningless.
But there are three factors you can capitalize on to make sure your content reaches your target buyers:
- Content promotion ads & SEO
- Content partnerships
- Content relevance
Let’s address these three — one after the other:
1. Content promotion ads & SEO
Instead of using only content partnerships to amplify reach, think:
- Content partnerships + Facebook Ads
- Facebook Ads + SEO + LinkedIn Ads
And so on… the more the channels, the more traffic and leads you’ll get.
Uberflip‘s CMO Randy Frisch says it like this:
“Content distribution is mostly a numbers game. The more channels you promote your content with, the more results you get. From our research, we’ve found that with each channel you distribute content, you can increase your views by 8x on average.”
Let’s expatiate a bit more on each channel:
- Facebook, Twitter, & LinkedIn: The targeting functionalities on these platforms can help you reach your ideal customers through the type(s) of content they need. You probably landed on this article through an ad we ran on Twitter or Facebook.
- SEO: optimizing content for search is almost always a profitable move — because after you run distribution on most other channels, they stop working once your ad budget runs out. But SEO is one channel that keeps driving traffic and leads for months and years.
II. Content partnerships:
Look for brands or influencers who have your ideal customers’ attention, and offer them value in exchange for sharing your content with their followers.
And this creates opportunities in two ways: (1) you get high-quality content from expert partners and (2) they promote your content to their audience
DreamMaker’s CEO, Petri Maatta, put it this way:
Cooperation is the new Competition. In order to generate leads and customers, B2B marketers need to produce high-quality content that educates, informs, and persuades potential buyers. But creating enough original content to keep your website fresh can be a challenge. One way to supplement your in-house content creation efforts is through content partnerships. A content partnership is an agreement between two companies to share content. For example, a software company might agree to let a hardware company use some of its blog posts on its own website. Content partnerships are beneficial for both parties involved. The party that provides the content gets exposure to a new audience, while the party that uses the content saves time and resources.
But how you approach this partnership is almost everything here, though; it’ll determine whether or not those influencers or brands will favor your content partnership request.
So how do you approach them?
Like the answer to many marketing questions, it depends.
In B2B, the value you’d propose to any influencer in B2B will rarely ever be money.
Most of them have their own jobs or businesses — so they usually won’t accept money to promote your content.
So you have to get creative.
Here are a few things you can offer them instead of money:
- A link: depending on the authority level of your site, this might be good enough for a share
- Relevant eyeballs on their brand: tell them you have their target customers engaged
- Getting featured among prominent experts
III. Content relevance
Content relevance is a huge aspect of your distribution process.
How does content relevance affect distribution or even lead gen?
Well, (1) the more relevant your content is, the better it’ll perform when you run ads to promote it. (2) If you’re doing content partnerships, the brands or influencers you’re looking to partner with will have a hard time promoting your content if they don’t think it’s relevant enough for their audience.
Remember, they’re not accepting money to share your content. They’re looking at content relevance to share.
So you want to make your content highly relevant to their audience. And relevant content is simply content that is:
- Actionable; contains advice your audience can practice to get specific results
- Timely; it’s useful right now
Other reasons people share content, besides its relevance
We asked B2B professionals what criteria they would use to define B2B content that is share-worthy:
Yam Regev of Zest says share-worthy B2B content is T.A.R.T. Here’s what that means:
Matthew of Automation Wolf argues that people share stuff that makes them look better — and this is especially true in B2B.
Colin Campbell of Sales Hacker says he considers content that follows the “Think, Feel, Do” framework to be excellent and sharing-worthy:
But in general, relevance is mostly the #1 thing that your influencer or brand partners will look for when you ask them to share your content. They’ll be looking at your content and asking questions like:
- Will my followers appreciate this content?
- Will sharing this content make me look good?
- Is this content useful for them or does it just regurgitate old information?
If your content is relevant, influencers (and their followers) will more easily promote it.
The more they promote it, the more eyeballs on your content, and the more leads you get.
(Author’s note: Get the good stuff below…)
5. Take your content marketing ROI measurement beyond last-touch attribution
The more data you have, the better you’ll be able to make content marketing decisions that’ll help generate leads in higher quality and quantity for your business.
So beyond attributing conversions to the last point of conversions, you need data on:
- First touch attribution: tracking leads who first found you through a particular content piece but came back months, weeks, or days later to convert on some other page.
- Linear attribution: tracking leads who read or viewed one or two content pieces along their journeys but didn’t sign up exactly when they read your content.
- Topics your target customers found most useful over the last year, six months ago, or even yesterday.
- The relevance of those topics today.
- Other topics they’re interested in.
- Topics that generate leads the most for your business.
- Channels and platforms your buyers hang around and pay attention to every day
There are several tools to find all this data.
By now, you probably know BuzzSumo helps you see which topics are relevant to your target buyers at any time.
There’s InfiniGrow — a tool that lets you see the touchpoints that lead to conversions on your site, including the specific content that created those touchpoints:
Google Analytics works, too; it keeps getting better, in fact.
You can set up conversion goals and attribution models. You can set it to track first, last, and linear touchpoints. We’ll have to create another post to address this more thoroughly; this one’s already exceeded 3,500 words.
But the bottom line here is that with the right data, you get a good perspective of the channels and content that helps you generate high-quality leads.
In the end, content should help you drive demand & leads
Your content should work for you. It shouldn’t just sit on your blog and warm the bench. It should drive demand and leads for your business.
Hopefully, the 5 points we’ve shared in this article will help stir you in the right direction.
And if you’d like us to help you plan and create content that generates demand and leads, see our content services page here.