Lots of brands do content marketing. That much goes without saying.
But with more than half admitting they don't measure ROI at all — and a similar number admitting they don't have any kind of defined strategy — the question of "why" they're doing it is another matter altogether.
The truth is that content marketing, executed properly, can be an incredibly powerful way to generate high quality leads; you just need to know how to do it.
There are plenty of tools in your content marketing locker — blog articles, product reviews, case studies, social media and more. But if you're looking to generate leads there are two content types you really shouldn't ignore: infographics and e-books.
These two tools — used together — can create a powerful 1-2 combo that's guaranteed to KO your competition!
Infographics: An Overnight Success Story?
There's nothing particularly new about infographics. Data visualizations — used to communicate complex data and ideas in an engaging, easy-to-interpret format — are centuries old. From Florence Nightingale's Coxcomb Chart to the London Underground's famous Tube Map, infographics haven't simply popped up out of nowhere in the last decade.
What is comparatively new, though, is their popularity as a marketing tool. SEO luminary Brian Dean has described infographics as one of his favorite link-building techniques, and he's not alone.
Search volumes for the term "infographics" increased by over 800% between 2010 and 2012, and a quick look at the Google Trends map for the term shows that trend has more than continued — reaching its highest point yet earlier this year.
What's our point? Well, there's clearly an appetite among consumers for high-quality infographics. Crucially, this means they're also highly regarded by bloggers and content managers, maximizing the potential for scoring placements (and valuable backlinks).
Your 4-step Infographic Plan
- Choose a topic to cover – something that's relevant to your business, and, crucially, appeals to the people who write about your industry. A good way to practically guarantee strong performance is to identify a similar piece that has performed well previously, but could be improved upon. Maybe it could do with a design spruce-up, or the data itself could be updated. Brian Dean has written extensively about this "skyscraper technique," and it really does work.
- Research, research, research – great design will see your infographic create a buzz in the design community, but the infographics that really create traction in the wider market are based around compelling data. Of course, this can include interesting secondary research. But if you're looking to make your infographic unique, you could consider your own. This doesn't have to cost a lot of money — a simple SurveyMonkey questionnaire can throw up a wealth of fascinating data and give you access to data that nobody else has. This is a fantastic head start when it comes to step 4.
- Design – there's no getting around it. Your infographic needs to be beautifully designed; shabby design is going to reflect horribly on your brand. Use in-house designers if you have them but, if not, you should probably steer clear of the DIY approach and outsource this step.
- Outreach – a crucial, crucial part of the process and, yet, overlooked by so many businesses. "Build it and they will come," is not an effective strategy when it comes to content marketing. Once your infographic is complete, you need to hustle and get it out there. Contact relevant third party websites and blogs and ask them directly if they'd be interested in sharing it with their audience; this approach can be highly effective, especially if you've created content that's particularly valuable and unique. Each placement you secure has two benefits. First, it exposes your brand to a new audience. And second, it will include a backlink to your site, which can help boost organic search traffic. Win-win!
Ebooks: Lead Gen Wizardry
The infographic strategy outlined above, executed correctly, is going to drive a lot of extra traffic to your website. But what happens when they arrive? They're anonymous visitors at this point, and you need to turn them into leads.
The way to do this is by creating content that is so comprehensive and valuable that they are more than willing to hand over their details to get a hold of it. This is where e-books and whitepapers come in.
We live in an era where free access to information has pretty much become the norm — ever find yourself asking what you did before Google? If you want basic, light material, there are blogs all over the web where you can freely access it. You aren't going to hand over your email address for that sort of stuff.
But unique, comprehensively researched, insightful, actionable material that you can't get anywhere else? We've probably all downloaded this sort of content and gladly handed over a few details about ourselves as part of the bargain.
Your 4-step E-book Plan
- Choose a topic to cover – it probably goes without saying that this should marry up with the topic covered in your infographic.
- Writing – a lot of people find the whole idea of writing a book quite intimidating, and that's understandable. When you break the task down, though, it's not that scary. You may not always stop and think about it, but just imagine how much expertise and insight you have in your particular industry. That is seriously valuable to your potential readers. E-books can be as long or as short as required — just make sure to keep things concise and actionable. Don't bore your reader; keep things engaging. If you're struggling, you could always hire a freelance copywriter or work with a content agency.
- Design – OK, same story again. Design isn't the be-all and end-all when it comes to e-books, but it's still important. You particularly want to create an eye-catching front cover that would ideally be consistent with the creative used in your infographic. Most modern marketing e-books are simply PDFs that can be downloaded, viewed and printed like any other digital document – but investing a little extra in the design will definitely help aid your user experience.
- Landing page – the crucial part of your e-book lead gen strategy is to host the e-book on a stand alone landing page, behind a "gate." This just means it's hidden behind a short form that users must complete before they can get the download link. Don't overdo this page – keep it nice and simple to encourage conversions, and keep the form as short as you feasibly can. A first name, last name and email address is generally enough. Ask for job title/seniority or business name as well if it's particularly important to you — but make sure to monitor the conversion rate of your landing page and fine-tune this as required. You can always fill in the blanks about your leads later, and it isn't worth losing out on potential leads by asking for too much info here.
- Outreach – traditionally, the landing page was the end of your e-book marketing plan but,increasingly, there are new ways to get exposure for your e-book. Outreach to bloggers or influencers within your niche, or upload it on a free publishing website.
Catch of the day!
So, we hope our run-down of this powerful 1-2 combo has helped you think about how you might use branded content as part of a real, actionable and measurable strategy to generate more leads.
In closing, let's, for a second, think of marketing as fishing. (Bear with us!)
Infographics are great bait — they're eye-catching bits of content that you introduce into your target audience's natural environment to get them interested.
But, if you just throw bait into the water — and don't attach it to anything — you're doing nothing more than feeding the fish. It might make you feel good, but it isn't going to put food on the table!
Of course, you need a fishing rod to actually catch anything. In this case, a great e-book is your fishing rod. So make sure there's something behind your bait, and your business has the best possible chance of generating an ocean of leads. Good luck!
Have any comments about or tips for producing infographics and e-books? Let us know in the comments!
Header image: Canva & Picjumbo