Although the IT industry weathered the pandemic better than any other sector, even displaying a 3.7% year-over-year growth, a lot of B2B companies — especially those operating in Eastern Europe and the Baltic region — had to double up on their digital marketing efforts to compensate for canceled offline events and business trips.
All of a sudden, marketing executives realized they were ill-equipped to drive quality traffic to their corporate websites or convert web traffic into any kind of lead, let alone marketing qualified lead (MQL). Here’s why:
- Unless you’re offering niche services or selling highly specialized products, your landing pages won’t reach the summit of Google search results in less than six months, and it takes ongoing page optimization and link building to attain this goal
- Publishing guest posts on reputable websites like VentureBeat and Forbes in the hope of attracting quality referral traffic might not deliver on its promise; after all, people who regularly check on those websites may not be looking for a technology partner
- B2B service review platforms like Clutch, G2, and ThinkMobile no longer bring as many MQLs as they used to even five years ago, while sponsorships (especially in top categories like mobile and web application development) are getting ridiculously expensive
If your website is not yet generating substantial organic traffic, you need to spend around $100,000 annually on paid advertising to keep your sales team busy
And what if there is a cheaper and faster way to boost your company’s lead generation efforts? Spoiler alert: I’m talking about publishing quality middle- and bottom-of-the-funnel (MOFU/BOFU) content on your corporate blog.
How to Convert Blog Readers to Customers
Before we talk blog post conversion, I’m assuming that you’ve already performed a set of marketing analyses to figure out where you stand as a company, what your competitors do in terms of content marketing, and which industries and types of customers you’re going to target. To that end, you may want to use several marketing frameworks and tools, including competitive analysis, PESTEL, VRIO, SWOT, and the Growth/Share Matrix by Boston Consulting Group. It would also help if you hone your company’s growth strategy with the help of the Treacy-Wiersema model.
The insights you’ll glean from those audits will help your company:
- Narrow down your offering to the specific services and technologies you’re excellent at
- Discover the most profitable industries and customer segments
- Learn what types of content (articles, infographics, webinars, downloadables, etc.) will help you drive organic traffic to your blog and convert website visitors into MQLs
Suppose you’re an IT company headquartered in Vilnius. You help small businesses from Western Europe and the United States create all types of mobile apps to support their operations. Your company’s expertise spans iOS, Android, and cross-platform applications built with Xamarin. You’re also experimenting with “cool” technologies like augmented reality and artificial intelligence (think AI-driven chatbots and face morphing apps), but these projects comprise just 15% of your portfolio. Your growth strategy is cost leadership, meaning you need to serve as many customers as possible and keep your hourly rates reasonably low.
Here are several blog lead generation tips that could help you achieve your marketing goals without significant monetary investments.
Step 1: Create Detailed Buyer Personas
To boost your content marketing lead generation efforts, you should create blog posts that provide in-depth answers to the questions your potential clients have — and you cannot really do that unless you know for sure whom you’re targeting.
A B2B buyer persona is a fictional representation of a decision maker in a company you’d like to work with. Ideally, you should create buyer personas for every customer segment you’re trying to reach — e.g., HoReCa businesses, cinema chains, mobile game startups, etc.
You can use the HubSpot buyer persona template to better organize what you know about prospective customers. When filling out the template fields, you should talk to your sales team, analyze your CRM data, and interview your past or current customers within the target segment.
Note that B2B buyer personas are different from their B2C counterparts.
Instead of asking how many dogs your potential customer has and where they typically vacation, it’s better to focus on their educational background, job responsibilities, and challenges their company is facing.
For instance, if your company has hands-on experience building food delivery apps for cafés and small restaurant chains, your basic buyer persona for this segment could be:
- Runs a coffeehouse chain (five locations) in New York
- Has a culinary arts degree
- Was forced to permanently close three of his cafés during the first COVID-19 lockdown
- Has shifted focus to delivery and take-out while soft-opening his remaining physical locations
- Has previously collaborated with third-party delivery apps and services until realizing they charge a 30% fee on every order
- Is looking for an IT company to create a food delivery app for his business
- Does not have a technical background and is therefore not sure how much it costs to build and maintain an app, what features it should incorporate, what platforms it should run on, and how he could market the application to his clients
Step 2: Use Content Mapping
Not all types of content are created equal.
Some blog posts are meant to raise awareness and draw your customers’ attention to a particular problem, like how restaurants across the US are responding to the pandemic and how technology could help them serve more customers and reopen safely.
Some articles, like “Why Your Restaurant Needs a Food Delivery App to Survive” or “Deciding on the Optimum Feature Set for a Food Delivery App” are better suited to an audience that is already aware of the problem and is now looking to solve it (i.e., I know this is a problem, and I know my business needs a mobile app).
Finally, there are articles that gently push your prospective customers towards filling out the contact form on your website and thereby convert blog readers into leads. I’m talking about content that belongs in the middle or bottom of the marketing funnel — alongside case studies, landing pages, and product demos. Some examples of such content include how-to and price evaluation articles targeting users who have already established purchase intent.
The content mapping concept revolves around serving the right content to the right people and at the right time.
Provided you accurately formulate your customers’ pain points and their questions about food delivery/restaurant app development (see Step 1), you can find relevant keywords that belong at the middle and bottom of the conversion funnel. Writing in-depth articles that include these keywords will help you attract clients that are well-aware of a technology-related problem, are actively trying to solve it, and are now seeking recommendations, cost estimates, or project management tips related to it.
Step 3: Select Relevant Keywords
There are three types of keywords that fall into the MOFU/BOFU category:
- Long-tail informational keywords, which typically begin with “how to,” “what type of,” or “why use/build”
- Long-tail keywords related to cost estimation, including those that begin with “how much does it cost to” or contain the word “cost”
- Low-volume commercial keywords that you haven’t incorporated into your landing page copy yet
I used the Ahrefs keyword research tool to find some MOFU/BOFU keyword ideas for Rick the Restaurator:
Instead of writing standalone MOFU/BOFU articles, I strongly recommend that you create topic clusters around your focus keywords (e.g., restaurant app development). The general idea behind this approach is that you first write a landing page or blog post introducing the problem (how food delivery apps help restaurants survive the crisis) and then branch out into subtopics while linking back to the pillar page, using your focus keyword as an anchor.
This way, you could create a detailed guide answering every question about food delivery apps that Rick might have. And if one of the articles performs exceptionally well on search engines, the other topics within the cluster will get a boost too.
Step 4: Craft Compelling Content
To increase blog post conversion, you should follow these simple yet effective tips:
- Collaborate with your in-house mobile app development team to create articles that are technically correct
- Explain complex concepts in simple words and write out terms your buyer persona might not be aware of (unknown acronyms aren’t going to hold non-technical readers’ attention)
- Make use of quality images — charts, timelines, schemes, etc. — to augment your content and include image descriptions
- Cite restaurant industry statistics and trends to back up your statements
- Avoid being one-sided; when estimating app development costs, for example, you should mention both native and cross-platform app development tools, as well as low-code app builders and white-label solutions
- Stick to the point and keep your article concise
- Include references to your past projects to showcase your expertise and relevant experience
- Have your blog posts checked by a native English-speaking proofreader
Step 5: Keep SEO in Mind
Strange as it may sound, SEO is no longer limited to stuffing your copy with keywords selected in Step 3. While you should definitely use keywords in the title, introduction, subtitle, and evenly throughout the article, you should also structure your content properly and increase your article’s length to make it appealing to Google algorithms.
A recent study from SEMrush, for example, suggests that longreads (3,000+ words) tend to get four times more traffic and shares than articles of medium length. The same goes for article titles; by writing catchy, self-explanatory headlines that contain at least ten words, you can increase blog post traffic by up to 100%. Making use of H2-H4 header tags containing relevant keywords, as well as bulleted lists and quality visuals will improve your articles’ ranking too.
Going back to our keywords, I recommend that you keep the overall keyword density below 3%.
It is also vital to create proper meta titles and descriptions for your article. For this, you should:
- Use different focus keywords in the article’s title and description
- Observe the character limit (70 and 160 characters for titles and descriptions, respectively)
- Write descriptions that directly answer a user’s query and explain what the article is about
Step 6: Promote Your Content
In addition to SEO, there are several things you can do to drive traffic to your blog post and thus boost your lead generation efforts:
- Pitch the content to a popular publication related to mobile app development, digital transformation, or business growth on Medium.com once your article gets indexed by Google. You can also publish blog post teasers on content aggregators like Growth Hackers
- Repackage articles into SlideShare presentations or infographics
- Create downloadables — white papers or eBooks — based on the original content
- Consider launching PPC campaigns or paid ads on social media
- Craft a newsletter highlighting your new content and send it out across your HoReCa email database
Finally, you need to monitor your content performance using Google Analytics and tools like SEMrush or Ahrefs. When doing so, focus on actionable metrics; a 75% bounce rate might signal a problem, but it’s more important to measure how many users who landed on your blog post proceeded to fill out the contact form.
As more IT companies jump on the content marketing bandwagon, creating well-researched and SEO-friendly articles tailored to a particular audience is the only way to stand out from the competition. The reason most technology companies are failing to produce such content might be rooted in the wrong perception of content’s role in lead generation, as well as the lack of dedicated resources.
Put this blog post lead generation strategy to work — and please let me know whether it works for you!
This article was originally published on June 9th on Medium.com.