Content marketing isn’t new. Neither, at a high level, is the process that gets you the best leads for your company. In fact, the best practices process for lead generation and development really hasn’t changed much in 10 years. Only the tactics have been updated.

Here is the process that we’re using successfully with tech companies right now. It contains two new tactics, one old tactic and one tactic that marketers love to ignore.

Step One: Blog, blog and blog some more

Okay, blogging isn’t new, but its place in the lead generation process is. The technology industry actually leads all business-to-business marketing sectors in the adoption of blogging. However, according to Joe Pulizzi of the Content Marketing Institute, 85% of companies with blogs have five or fewer posts. Unless you just started your blog five weeks ago, that pace is not going to work!

Blogging at the right pace with the right quality is where we start our clients because it does so many incredible things for you. It helps bring new visitors to your website via search engines and social media. It answers questions and provides an education that keeps prospects coming back until they’re ready to engage. It’s a platform for your thought leadership initiatives. I could go on, but since I’ve already written about why every technology company needs a blog, I’ll restrain myself here.

Step Two: Get Active on LinkedIn.

The “new” way to get known by prospects and buyers is LinkedIn. Where else are you going to find over 200,000 million business people, including 2 million C-level executives and 5.5 million technology managers, looking for connections? It’s a goldmine just waiting for IT marketers to tap.

If you’ve heard or read about other tech companies struggling with social media, it’s because they aren’t doing it right, which isn’t surprising. Social media is new to lead generation, it’s still evolving and very few people know how to use it yet.

I was challenged about how to use social media to generate leads so I went out and found a LinkedIn expert (so called by none other than the New York Times and someone who is actually generating leads with LinkedIn) to help me understand how to do it. Together we’ve applied her LinkedIn knowledge and experience to the tech industry and come up with a process that works. Stick with me and I’ll show you how we’re generating leads on LinkedIn for our tech clients. In fact, at the end of this article I’ll tell you where to get some info that will get you started.

Step Three: Create at least one giveaway and use it to collect contact info.

Here’s the old tactic that still continues to work – week in and week out.

With the first two steps in this process you establish a foundation of continuously updated content – your blog – to keep attracting, educating and helping your prospects; and you begin to use LinkedIn to spread awareness and connect with likely prospects. Now, to turn these connections into leads, you have to kick the relationship to a higher level by getting them to make a commitment. In this case, that commitment is providing some basic contact information.

The most effective way to do this is still by offering free valuable information that they’ll be willing to “buy” with their contact info. White papers, ebooks and special reports are especially effective in this step.

So, create a killer giveaway – or spruce up an existing one, build a landing page with content that sells the giveaway, capture contact details (don’t ask for too much at the point), and use your blog and LinkedIn to drive people to this page.

Step Four: Prospect management.

Typically you’ll find that, over time, maybe 10% of the people you capture with your giveaway are far enough along in the buying process to be ready and willing to talk to a sales person. On a good day. The other 90% are still doing their own research and they need to be helped along by marketing.

If you just got bored, wake up. This is the step marketers love to skip. Why? Because it takes times (I’ve seen it work after two years), and patience is not always present among bosses and sales people who are screaming for leads. But this is the step that will get you out of the constant, expensive battle to generate new leads. It will, in fact, build a system that pops out leads on a predictable, cost-effective basis.

Prospect management is where your content really begins to shine. White papers and reports are still effective in this step – and they can begin to offer details more specific to your solution. Case studies, demos, free trials, webinars, videos, product sheets, you name it. It all works here.

Step Five: Hand off to sales.

Finally you reach the point where the prospect is ready for the sales team. By now it’s a good warm lead – as defined by your team. Initial questions have been answered; a relationship of sorts has been established; the prospect has self-qualified and is ready to learn more about their specific situation.

This is not by any means the end of content’s role. Your sales team will continue to use content such as demos, competitive comparisons, presentations, and user documentation to turn the lead into a customer.

Step Six: Repeat and Refine

As you’ve no doubt figured out, using content to generate leads and customers is not a one-shot effort. It’s an on-going process that just keeps getting better the more you use it.

Next Steps

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