written by
Hannah Quintyn

B2B Lead Generation: A Step-By-Step Guide For Content Marketers

Content Marketing Lead Generation 11 min read

B2B lead generation through content marketing is extraordinarily complex. There are many different channels, format options, and potential topics to cover. Your business might have more than one target audience to complicate matters further.

But if you do it right and write high-value content, your readers will trust you and possibly even become the high-quality leads you were aiming after.

Despite the overwhelming possibilities, there is a pattern for content that lends itself incredibly well for generating leads. To make it easier for you, we have broken down content marketing for B2B lead generation into three key stages.

B2B lead generation

Table of content

The three stages of content marketing for B2B lead generation

  1. Lead bait: lead magnets like ebooks, webinars, and challenges.
  2. Core content: blog posts, pillar posts, podcasts, and YouTube videos.
  3. Promotional content: social media posts and outreach to your core content.

As a content marketer, your job is to deliver high quality leads to your sales team or your sign-up funnel. Someone on the sales team will convert the lead to a customer, or a product marketer will work to ensure that the lead gets the right follow-up emails on autopilot.

Either way, it is likely not your job to convert someone into a customer. Your job is to convert them into a lead. That is why Stage 1 is the lead bait, not smaller pieces of content. Once you have high-converting lead bait in place, it’s much easier to know what sort of core content (Stage 2) and promotional content (Stage 3) to create.

Throughout all of these stages, you’ll be researching your audience's needs and measuring successes in a never-ending reiterative cycle to ensure that your efforts target and convert your audience.

three stages of content marketing for B2B lead generation

Stage 1: Create high-converting lead bait

While lead bait might not be the first thing you create when your company starts producing content, it should be the first thing you make when you start prioritizing B2B lead generation with your content.

You can have multiple lead baits. Some B2B content marketing teams create one per quarter, one per month, or even more. However, to simplify things, let’s start with creating just one high-value lead magnet that your audience craves.

Why create lead bait in Stage 1 of your B2B lead generation strategy?

The moment your goal becomes B2B lead generation, you should focus on optimizing your lead bait. This involves gating content that brings in quality leads and converts well.

There are many different reasons to create content. If your goal is to generate brand awareness, you don't necessarily need to make your lead bait before other content forms.

What happens when you don’t have optimized lead bait:

Without optimized lead bait, it can be challenging to measure the success of your blog posts, podcasts, and emails. You don’t have a conversion metric in place. Some companies that offer a free trial can be okay because they can measure free trial sign-ups. But for B2B companies that don't offer a free trial, there's nothing to measure. In this case, marketers can't detect the success of their content other than its views.

What happens when you do have optimized lead bait:

When you do have optimized lead bait, you can more easily create smaller pieces of content that point to it. It will be simpler to know what topics to cover and to measure the success of your blog posts and social media campaigns because you’ll have a metric in place for converting blog readers into email subscribers and email subscribers into customers. This way, B2B lead generation gets a lot easier.

Market research for lead bait

Don’t reinvent the wheel: Do competitor research to find out what other companies are creating. Do they offer ebooks, webinars, templates, or calculators? Also, explore what influencers and consultants in your industry are producing. Also, explore what influencers and consultants in your industry are producing. Unless the resource you're inspired by is mainly well known in your industry and has saturated the market, it might be smart to create something similar.

Solve a problem for your audience: By solving your audience's problem, you inspire trust and loyalty and keep people coming back to you for further help. Research relevant hashtags on Twitter and LinkedIn to find what your audience needs help with, and read through Reddit and Quora's questions.

Options for lead bait format

Your lead bait should contribute to B2B lead generation by collecting email addresses that you can pass to the sales team and use in your retargeting and nurture campaigns.

Lead bait can come in many forms. Think about ebooks: long or short downloadable guides, checklists, and other written content.

You could also choose for a webinar or video training. Your webinars can be automated, delivered live, or viewable on demand. And if you prefer video training, make sure you create training anywhere from ten minutes to ninety minutes long.

If you want to inspire your audience to take action, using email or video challenges is the way to go.

You could also opt for a very hands-on lead bait, such as a template or calculator. You can offer templates for Word doc, Google doc, or Spreadsheets. If you were to choose to provide a calculator, create profit calculators or budget calculators with spreadsheets or custom coding.

You can bundle multiple of these options and create a resource bundle where you offer your best ebooks, video training, and templates, all in one download.

Sleeknote offers a bundle of resources to skyrocket their lead magnet conversion rates.

How to choose the right lead bait topic

The right lead bait topic solves your audience's problem, is more than purely informative, targets your ICP, and is also relevant to your solution.

When we say that your lead bait shouldn't be just informative, we mean it has to provide actions that will give them better results, saves time, or saves money.

The headline of the lead bait has to target your ideal customer profile, so you don't pull in leads at the wrong stage of company development.

And of course, people who engage with your lead bait will likely be interested in your product or service. That’s why the topic should not only be relevant to your audience but to your solution as well.

How to measure the success of your lead bait for B2B lead generation

You know your lead bait is successful when:

  • The lead bait landing page converts at 15% or higher (if it doesn’t, tweak the headline or test a new concept)
  • At least 60% of marketing-qualified leads are sales-qualified leads (if not, research your audience’s needs to create the right content)
  • The lead bait gets shared by your target audience and earns direct traffic

Stage 2: Master your core content

Your core content is often the meat of your website. Usually, it's how people come to your website in the first place. For example, they find your article on Twitter, Google search results, or in an email from a friend.

By drawing your audience in, your core content is responsible for bringing more views to your lead bait so that you can collect more leads. With a high-converting lead bait in place, you can focus on building out the best possible core content.

Market research for core content

Consider the formats your audience wants: For B2B audiences, blog posts, podcasts, and videos are all great options. To discover the best formats for your company, consider your audiences’ needs and wants. Does your audience commute and have time for podcasts? Is your audience pressed for time? Are they more interested in quick reads? Adjust your content format according to their lifestyle and workflow.

Consider the formats your team can execute: While you might plan to launch a YouTube channel one day, that doesn’t mean you have the resources for it right now. It’s important to consider what your team can manage.

Decide on the content buckets you want to be known for: Before you conduct topic ideation, you need to decide what your audience should know your company for? Is it an e-commerce product strategy, or email marketing, or event management? Get clear on the two to three content buckets that all of your core content should fit inside.

Options for core content formats

Core content formats can be many things: standard blog posts (900 - 1500 words), long-form blog posts (2000+ words), resource libraries, content clusters, podcasts, or videos.

For example: we wrote a long-form blog post about how to write a top-performing blog post.

long form blog post example

You could also make a content cluster like we did with our success stories.

success stories as content cluster example

You don’t need to have them all, but make sure your core content at least includes a few of these options.

How to choose the topics

Use competitor research, industry research, and social listening: To know what topics to cover, you need to have a deep understanding of what's happening in your industry—research on social media, your competitors' sites, and industry influencers and consultants' sites too. You'll likely need to do a mix of covering essential basics and produce fresh content on the cutting edge of your industry.

By creating content their audience needs, and continually updating their best pieces, OptinMonster earns tons of traffic through both organic sharing and SEO.

Use keyphrase research to guide topic ideation: It’s much easier to create a headline around a keyphrase than to stuff a key phrase into a headline. Create a list of 50 to 100 target keyphrases that you have a reasonable chance of ranking for. Tip: look for an appropriate difficulty score and SERP rankings whose domain scores are close to your own. Then, build up your content calendar around these keyphrases. You can repurpose YouTube videos and podcasts by embedding them in your blog posts.

How to measure the success of your core content for B2B lead generation

You have strong core content when it:

  • Converts at 2% or higher to your lead bait
  • Earns organic shares
  • Gains more than the average of your number of content views

Stage 3: Nail your promotional content

For both your lead bait and your core content, you need to create promotional content. Immediately, you’re thinking of social media, aren’t you? And that’s great. But there are other methods, such as email newsletters, email outreach, and guest blogging, that links back to your core content.

Market research for promotional content

Discover what channels your audience uses: If you try to be on every social media platform, you spread yourself too thin. Use social listening, industry research, and competitor research to pick the two or three social media platforms that you should prioritize.

Profile your competitors’ sites and backlinks: Take a look at your competitor's backlink profiles in an SEO tool to determine if they're doing guest posting to build backlinks to posts that target essential key phrases. You can discover what sites they're guest posting on and what posts they're putting effort into ranking.

Strategies for promotional content

You can promote your content on various platforms and channels.

The first one you can think of is probably social media. And you’re right. Release the best core content on your active social media channels.

Email marketing is also a great way to promote your content. Divert your newsletter traffic to your top blog posts and podcast episodes.

And have you tried backlink outreach yet? Reaching out to bloggers for backlinks increases your chances of SEO traffic for a given post.

If you want to bring in visitors from referral traffic and increase your chances of SEO traffic for a given post, then guest blogging might be an excellent idea for B2B lead generation as well.

How to choose what pieces of core content to prioritize

Use social media to promote all of your high-quality content: You can promote nearly every piece of core content and lead bait on social media. However, if you have a glossary or resource library that’s a bit basic or beginner, you might not want to promote every individual post. Otherwise, you could bore your audience. So, if some of your content is purely for SEO purposes, you don’t need to promote it on social.

promotional content on social media for B2B lead generation

Email your audience with only your best content: You don’t need to email your newsletter list with every blog post you write. That could overwhelm your subscribers. Instead, pick only the most helpful and most actionable posts, podcasts, or YouTube videos to share.

highlighted resources in newsletter for B2B lead generation

Use backlink outreach and guest blogging only for your top target key phrases: Engaging in backlink outreach and guest blogging to build links requires effort. It’s typically not possible (or even wise) to do this for every post. But you should do it for your highest priority blog posts, the ones that target a keyphrase, and have a great chance of ranking.

How to measure the success of your promotional content for B2B lead generation

Your promotional content does it well when:

  • Your social posts perform better than your average in terms of shares and comments
  • Backlink outreach emails convert to links at a rate of at least 1%
  • Guest blog pitches convert at a rate of at least 20%
  • Email marketing click-throughs to your content are at least 5% with open rates of at least 15%

Of course, you can’t execute these three stages in a vacuum. There comes a lot more into play when your goals is B2B lead generation through content marketing.

Actually, we wrote a whole ebook about it, with actionable frameworks, plug-n-play funnel maps, and copy templates to bring in leads. Make sure to download our ebook if you want to become a B2B lead generation expert through content marketing.

Content marketing toolkit for B2B lead generation
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