By Mike Nierengarten published November 30, 2014

Why Your Content Is Sabotaging Your Lead Generation

15077053849_778cfd720b_oWhen a lead-generation campaign performs poorly, the main culprit often is an irrelevant or non-compelling offer – an industry-analyst report or follow-up phone call offered in exchange for the recipient’s contact information. In a rush to launch lead-generation campaigns, brands mistakenly repurpose content from sales-enablement or product marketing, creating a gap between the offer and what their targeted audience wants.

Sales-enablement and lead-nurturing collateral is valuable, but it is meant for prospects familiar with the brand’s solution. Content for sales enablement is focused on closing the deal. In contrast, lead-generation campaigns are focused on getting contact information. Successful lead-generation campaigns exchange useful, relevant and compelling content for permission to contact a qualified individual.

Paid-search campaigns are effective because brands have the opportunity to reach users at the point of intent – when they are actively searching for a solution. Brands waste this opportunity when they direct users to a contact-us form or some tangentially relevant on-demand webinar. Take the paid-search campaign opportunity to offer them content that provides a solution that is highly relevant to their search query.

Let’s look at this what-not-to-do example – BambooHR’s lead-generation campaign for its human-resource software. Bamboo’s offer (below) of a white paper, Stop Using Spreadsheets, requires visitors searching keywords relevant to HR software to make a jump in relevancy. (The offer is a better fit for a lead-nurturing campaign focused on reinforcing the Bamboo solution.)

For a lead-generation campaign, Bamboo would have done better by offering information that would help the user select an HR-software solution, such as an HR-software buyer’s guide or an industry-analyst report reviewing top HR-software vendors.

Bamboo HR Screenshot

In social advertising, you know key details about your target audience. You may know job titles, to which user groups they belong, or the skills they include on their LinkedIn profiles. In a Twitter campaign, you may know what technology they use or publications they read. Use this information to dictate the content you create, such as an informational guide around software your target customers use.

Identify content gaps

Create a table that includes the lead-generation campaign in one column and the offer(s) in another. Highlight campaigns where the offer is not directly relevant to the keywords or audience targeted. Here’s a hint: Product features, case studies, and on-demand webinars tend to perform poorly in top-of-funnel lead-generation campaigns. Industry-analyst reports (e.g., Gartner, Forrester, SiriusDecisions), buyer’s guides, and strategy guides tend to perform well.

Measure the campaign’s success because underperformance is a good indicator of a content gap. Using the lead-generation campaign table, highlight the underperformers – the campaigns with low click-through rates (below 1% in search campaigns, below 0.02% in display campaigns) or low conversion rates (generally below 5%).

This example shows the table of lead-generation campaigns for an enterprise resource planning software company. Offers highlighted in orange are underperforming, indicating where new offers should be created and tested for these campaigns.

Content Roadmap Image 2

Create new content to fill gaps

Once you have identified the offers that need to be replaced, prioritize new content based on impact – those areas with the greatest opportunity for new qualified leads or cost reduction. Look first at your lead-generation campaigns with the highest click volume and highest cost because they have the largest impact on performance.

With your priorities in place, brainstorm content ideas. Again, pay special attention to your targeting options for the ad network. If you are running paid search, the new offer needs to be highly relevant to the targeted keywords. Similarly, audience-targeted campaigns need to be highly relevant to the audience you are targeting. Be confident that the new content is beneficial and useful to the user by considering the buyer persona and the stage of the buying cycle. In addition, evaluate how a new offer may be used effectively across multiple campaigns to maximize its value.

Test new content

Determining whether your content is compelling can be tough without testing. Making pilot offers in social advertising is a powerful, inexpensive evaluation method. Run LinkedIn Sponsored Updates and Twitter Sponsored Tweet campaigns testing multiple offers. I recommend running a test of four sponsored updates or tweets – the click-through rate (CTR) will indicate whether your audience is interested in your content.

In a recent test, Obility offered a different strategy guide in four LinkedIn Sponsored Updates campaigns: Targeting Competitors, SEO for the AppExchange, Online Marketing with Marketing Automation, and Promoting B2B Events. After a month, we found that Targeting Competitors significantly outpaced the other guides’ CTRs by four times. The message was clear: Our target audience of online marketing managers was most interested in reaching competitors’ prospects and customers. After the test, we continued to run the Targeting Competitors offer in our LinkedIn campaigns and maintained a high CTR with low cost per lead.

As you fill the content gaps in your lead-generation campaigns, you will see notable improvements in click-through rate, conversion rate, and cost per lead, and those gains can be quite substantial. By identifying content gaps and creating more relevant, compelling offers, you can more effectively reach your target audience.

Want more insight into how to improve the content for your sales funnel? Check out all the fantastic CMW sessions that are available through our Video on Demand portal.

Cover image by Benjamin Miller, Free Stock, via pixabay

Author: Mike Nierengarten

Mike Nierengarten is the President of Obility, a leading B2B demand generation company specializing in internet marketing for companies with long sales cycles. Mike founded Obility in 2011 and has helped market B2B companies since 2004. In his career, Mike has helped great companies track online marketing performance through the sales cycle by integrating CRM and marketing automation platforms.

Other posts by Mike Nierengarten

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  • Reginald Chan

    Hi Mike,

    A huge fan of CMI and you nailed it! I love the part about creating new content to fill the gaps! At the end of the day, guess it is all about testing and even more testing huh?

    Bookmarked this and coming back for more!

    Thank you for sharing and hope you have an awesome weekend!

    • Mike Nierengarten

      Reginald, thank you. My weekend was superb and am settling into my Monday. Content truly is king, but it needs to be the right content on the right channel targeting the right audience. Hope your weekend went great as well.

  • Robert Gibb

    Often I need to read things by someone else to remember just how important they are. Thanks for the reminder about testing and letting the customers decide what content should be promoted more than other content.

    Especially liked this bit:

    “Making pilot offers in social advertising is a powerful, inexpensive evaluation method. I recommend running a test of four sponsored updates or tweets – the click-through rate (CTR) will indicate whether your audience is interested in your content.”

    • Mike Nierengarten

      We continue to run multiple tests for our clients and it is always really interesting to see what offers fail miserably. It is much less heartbreaking to find out a piece of content is not compelling after spending a couple hundred dollars versus spending thousands of dollars and considerable time and effort.

  • Joe Morecroft

    This is the winning line in this article:

    “Be confident that the new content is beneficial and useful to the user by considering the buyer persona and the stage of the buying cycle”

    Having a visual timeline of your persona’s buyers cycle and listing all the content that appropriately fits their journey is a must.

    • Mike Nierengarten

      Thanks Joe. Feels great to see someone talk about a “winning line” in my article

  • Manni

    Hi Mike

    Thanks for providing such a knowledgeable stuff.

    As, content is the king, lead generation is highly dependent over the quality of content.

  • Vikram Singh

    Thanks Mike for such a helpful write on lead generation.Indeed content is the king and your methods make so much sense, especially I loved your suggestion to create a table to identify weakness in the content.

    So far I had been carrying out lead generation campaigns for months with out even caring to evaluate the existing content and my conversion rate was not very healthy.

    Vikram Singh

  • Sydney

    The readability of this content would be greatly enhanced if the social links were in that empty space on the right of the page instead of overlapping the text.

    • Michele Linn

      I appreciate you sharing your experiences, Sydney. I asked our web person, and she suggested that you adjust the size of your browser just a bit (either larger or smaller). That should alleviate the issue. But, if you have any other issues, feel free to reach out directly: michele [at]

  • Christopher B

    Really key facts here on Landing pages vs Searches. Good take away on keeping content Relevant and on point with people’s queries.