In the 2020s, content marketing is one of the best ways to attract new B2B buyers to your business.
That's because today's buyers are much more likely to spend time doing their own research into what products and services they need, as well as reading up on hot topics in their industry.
In fact, 71% of B2B content marketers think that content marketing is even more important than last year, according to a 2023 study.
B2B content marketing allows marketers to target buyers in the research phase of their buying process, and at the buyer's own convenience. When done right, B2B content marketing is much more effective for technology lead generation than other more traditional methods, like cold-calling and mass email promotions.
In this blog, we'll explore:
Types of Content Marketing
Different types of content marketing have different effects on your audience, and can create different results for B2B lead generation or demand generation.
You can split content marketing for lead generation into inbound marketing and outbound marketing.
Inbound marketing is where your potential leads come to you. It's a longer-term strategy that relies on putting out plenty of bait to attract leads. It's less transactional and a bit harder to measure.
Outbound marketing, on the other hand, is where you reach out to potential customers, often through a third-party specialist. There's usually a cost involved, but with fast, measurable results.
These are some of the main types of B2B content marketing for lead generation:
- Utilizing your website for SEO e.g. through high-quality content.
- Social media posts (organic and paid).
- Display ads.
- Webinars and podcasts.
- Email marketing to your existing database, such as educational newsletters.
- Content syndication for lead generation.
- Mass email campaigns to new audiences.
- Paid social media.
- PPC and search ads, such as Google Ads or Bing.
What Type of Content Is Best For Lead Generation?
As mentioned earlier, the best content for technology lead generation is content which provides clear value for the reader. For example, a useful tool to make a part of their job easier (like our lead generation planning toolkit!) or a research report full of unique insights from your organization.
The best type of content to use for lead generation can take many forms, and which type works best depends on several factors, including the types of leads you're trying to generate, or the audiences you're trying to reach.
Content Marketing for Outbound Lead Generation
Outbound lead generation requires your best, and most relevant, content in order to attract leads. That's because you're reaching out to new prospects, rather than them finding you. Therefore, the more relevant and informative your content is, the more likely it is to hit the mark.
Also, many outbound lead generation techniques use gated content to capture leads' contact details.
B2B buyers know the value of their business information: so if you're expecting them to hand it over in return for your content, your content better be worth it!
An outbound lead generation content marketing plan relies on plenty of fresh, relevant material. Readers are turned off by:
- Boring, dry, un-engaging, repetitive or long (you get the picture!) pieces of content.
- Out-of-date content, e.g. quoting stats from more than two years ago.
- Content that was obviously AI-generated.
- Content which is a sales pitch disguised as a educational piece of marketing material.
Once you know what you're going to write, you can plan what to do with it. A thorough content plan should include internal distribution, such as your own email database and social media channels, and external distribution, such as content syndication lead generation.
Let's look at the pros and cons of internal and external content distribution strategies.
Email marketing is awesome for lead nurturing, but less good for reaching new leads. That's because most of your database will be leads who are already aware of your brand. An exception might be if you use a 3rd party B2B lead generation company to buy email addresses.
However, in 2024 this isn't the best practice for B2B technology marketers, because you'll essentially be contacting them cold, probably with little data on what they're looking for as buyers, which could annoy people and actually put them off your brand in the long-term.
Paid Social Media.
You can extend your lead generation range a lot on social media by paying to run ads with a lead generation objective. Let's use LinkedIn as the best example: you can choose the audience you want to target, and set a budget that suits you.
However, LinkedIn isn't perfect. It may be the 'business' social media site, but a lot of people are still using it in a personal capacity, so you're not capturing the contact details you need. For example, lots of LinkedIn users are more likely to use a personal email address rather than a business one.
Other Paid Media
Search advertising (to appear at the top of Google, for example) and display advertising are good ways of reaching fresh leads. By choosing the keywords you advertise against carefully, and by spending enough money, you can make sure potential leads see your relevant website or landing pages when they use Google.
Beware, though: have you heard of 'banner blindness'? Lots of internet users have subconsciously trained themselves to not see ads. Or, consciously choose not to click on the ads related to their search because, well, they're ads!
B2B content syndication is our favorite way to boost your B2B lead generation using content marketing, which will come as no surprise – it's what we do at Headley Media.
Content syndication for outbound lead generation ensures the leads you generate actually want to hear from you, therefore serving as a lead nurturing tool as well.
In fact, we'd also count it as a demand generation tool, because the leads generated are all B2B buyers who were actively looking for content like yours, and have already engaged with your brand. That's the way we do it at Headley.
Here's how content syndication lead generation works. Firstly, your content is hosted on a 3rd party content syndication platform by a B2B lead generation specialist. For example at Headley Media this would be one or more of our content library websites within our portfolio of six tech brands. Ideally, the content libraries you use will be owned by the supplier you choose to work with (to ensure no sneaky outsourcing is being done).
The content is gated, so readers using the content library will fill in a download form with their business contact details – and then, after their data is validated, they are delivered back to you as one of a list of content leads. You can explore Headley Media's full (and transparent) lead generation process for a more thorough example.
Content Marketing for Inbound Lead Generation
Inbound lead generation is a bit different, and requires more of a longview approach.
The term can almost be used interchangeably with demand generation: it's all about ensuring your brand is discoverable for people researching in your market.
B2B content marketing for inbound lead generation depends more on brand prominence than on desirable gated content.
In fact, ungated content works really well for demand generation. If your content is widely accessible for free, more people will see it and remember your brand.
The secret is ensuring that content is visible. SEO, a good social media presence and a dynamic website are important factors here.
Most importantly, ensure you have good-quality content going out regularly. Blogging and social media posting are brilliant for inbound lead generation: thought leadership and industry insights will show that your business knows its stuff.
We'll use the blog you're currently reading as an example: it's not worth gating for the purpose of outbound lead generation, because the information it contains can be found elsewhere. You might not have given your contact details to read it, but we hope you're learning from it even so.
You can also enhance inbound lead generation content marketing with display advertising. B2B buyers who are researching will view dozens of pieces of content, usually with their eyes focused on the words. With display advertising you can create a 'surround sound' effect, making sure your business's branding and artwork are seen as well as the content itself.
How to Generate Leads with Content Marketing
A key question you need to answer when creating content for lead generation is; "How does content marketing generate leads?".
In our experience, content marketing for B2B lead generation works really well if you use a mix of inbound and outbound lead generation strategies.
It's tempting for a stretched marketing team to only use demand generation: on the surface “letting your leads come to you” sounds like a great strategy, doesn't it? But it depends how fast you want to grow, and what pressures you're getting from the wider business to prove your ROI.
Generating leads organically through demand generation can take much longer than outbound marketing methods.
Let's explore a few key ways of how to generate leads with content marketing.
1. Research keywords, trends & themes
As the name suggests, keywords are a great place to start for content lead generation. Non-SEO-optimized pages often get no traffic at all. We recommend using a keyword research tool to find the keywords your ideal customers search for, and the keywords your best-performing competitors are using – Semrush is our favorite.
2. Know who you're creating content for...
It may sound obvious, but the key to generating great content is truly understand who your target audiences are, who your customers are and importantly, who you're trying to reach with each piece of content you produce.
It can help to create customer personas – profiles of who your typical client is and what they're looking for – and refer to that when writing content. Will they find what you're writing useful? Is it accessible to them, in language they'll understand?
3. Write good stuff!
We've already covered the need to write content that's actually useful – with, for example, unique stats, insights from an expert, or advice that's usually hard to find online. But making sure it's good quality generally – interesting, readable and mistake-free – will help set it apart from the hundreds of other pieces of content out there.
4. Reuse, update, repurpose.
A single piece of content can go a long way. It can be reused in different formats – for example, a blog can form the basis of a webinar or instructional video. The points covered within can be turned into individual social media posts. A white paper or research report can even be turned into several blogs.
It's also a good idea to regularly update your content for lead generation: keeping it relevant to the present day, and ensuring the keywords are still relevant. At Headley Media, we tend to give our blogs an annual refresh – after all, there will always be new potential leads looking for the same information, and if it's gathering dust in a corner of your website it won't be seen.
5. To gate or not to gate?
Decide whether a piece of content for lead generation should be gated or ungated.
Essentially, ask yourself; Is the piece worthy enough to be gated? Does it provide enough value that potential buyers will feel like the exchange of their information for the piece was worth it? Use these questions to decided whether to share it for 'free' as an ungated blog, or put it behind a content download form for lead generation.
6. Share widely.
It's worth investing to ensure your hard-worked-for content gets seen by as many people as possible. Consider advertising on social media, exchanging content with relevant businesses in your sector, or talk to us about content syndication if you need some help distributing your content to reach wider audiences.
Find out more of the benefits of content syndication for B2B lead generation, or check out our other resources for B2B content marketing best practice.