BY Ann Handley | September 7, 2011
Sometimes when I hear
companies talking about creating a "machine" for their lead-generation
efforts, I think about Dr. Seuss. Specifically, I think about all the
fantastical and imaginative machines he created in his 46 children's
books--like the Super-Axe-Hacker, the Utterly Sputter and (my favorite)
the Eight-Nozzled Elephant-Toted Boom Blitz, a mighty machine that
rapidly fires explosive sour-cherry stones.
Of course in real
life, businesses can't flip the switch on a Triple-Sling Jigger to
instantly produce prospects. But what if you could create a kind of
machine for lead generation on your own company blog, allowing it to
help you continuously fill that sales funnel?
39% of b2b marketers in North America find blog posts to be valuable marketing content.
--Focus research, June 2011
are a great way to increase your digital presence, making you more
visible and "findable" via Google, Bing and the like. They can also be a
great way to generate leads. Your blog can function as a kind of triage
for your sales team, fielding and answering questions organically via
the content you produce there. However, it can perform that function
only if you effectively create momentum with visitors who are likely to
buy, turning them from mere passersby into something more.
10-step prescription to increase your visibility and attract more
qualified folks to your site. It may not shoot cherry pits, but it will
help you convert your traffic into leads.
1. Make your blog an extension of your main website.
A visitor's first experience with your company might be through a blog
page. He or she might never land on your main site's homepage, so link
your blog visually (mirroring the navigation and design of your main
site) as well as technically. Maintain the blog as a subdomain of your
main domain (something like blog.website.com) versus putting it on a
separate domain entirely. Blogging on the same domain that hosts your
company site ensures that all inbound links to blog pages also juice up
the search mojo of your main site.
2. Solve or share, don't shill. Your
blog should focus on your customers. It should either solve their
problems or share your resources. Don't shill your stuff. This may sound
obvious, but too many business blogs seem to be a repository for press
releases, regurgitated marketing-speak and other pablum. News about your
company and its products and services might be fascinating to you, but
it's not what will ultimately attract and engage prospects. Write about
what they care about.
How can you determine what to write about?
Use inquires or "Frequently Asked Questions" as fuel for blog posts. Ask
your frontline folks: What problems do our customers ask about? What
advice do they need? What problems do our products or services solve?
Also, check your search logs: See what keywords people use when they
land on your site to get a sense of what problems they have and what
words they use to describe them. (Of course, questions your customers
don't ask but you wish they did--or Frequently Unasked Questions--also
are great blog post fodder!)
3. Show up. Half of
blogging is consistency, or just showing up on a regular basis.
(Naturally, the other half is producing great stuff!) You don't have to
blog every day, but you do have to create a schedule that's sustainable
for you. Hiring a freelancer or a staff writer or editor can help keep
you on track with regular content, especially if you are a reluctant
writer. But if you can't afford that, use an editorial calendar to plan a
posting schedule (and stick to it). An editorial calendar, by the way,
is simply that: a calendar on which you plan what post will be published
Showing up also applies to the ongoing care and feeding of
the community you're creating through your blog. Encourage conversation
and engagement by responding to comments (even negative ones). Be part
of the conversation, not above it.
4. Avoid War and Peace posts.
The best blog posts are punchy and concise, focusing on a single idea.
Think short paragraphs or bullet points. And don't bury the important
information. Open with a declarative sentence that sets up the key idea.
Framing blog posts this way not only respects your reader's busy
schedule, but also helps address the anxiety a lot of us feel about
writing. A blog post can also be a graphic, image, video or even an
embedded PowerPoint presentation.
5. Pen a killer headline.
I sometimes spend more time writing a headline for a blog post than I
do writing the entire post. Why? Because every blog post creates a new
page on your site, and every new page creates another opportunity to
boost your ranking for one of your targeted keyword phrases in Google or
Bing or other search engines. Your blog post title becomes your web
page title, so titles matter!
An intriguing headline, or title, is
also critical to attracting actual humans to read your post. The title
of an article is not merely a promise to the reader (an idea of what's
in store), it's also the pitchman for the entire post: It entices people
to either click or … not.
6. Link to other resources. Throughout
a post, link specific words or phrases to other resources on your site.
You can link keywords to resource pages you've built around those
words, or you can link to specific landing pages where you've posted
related offers, like the ability for visitors to sign up for a companion
webinar, request a white paper or get a free trial.
7. Embed companion calls to action.
In addition to linking within the post itself, remember the real estate
around the post. There are a few areas prime for calls to action on any
blog page, including the "leaderboard" spot at the top of your blog,
the sidebar on either side of the post and the often-ignored space
immediately following a blog post.
The first two spots are great
for banners or buttons. But the space under the post is key: Assuming
readers get through the entire post, they should always be given an
opportunity to learn more with either a companion offer or related piece
of content. (Hint: This is also a good place from which to link to
landing pages that require e-mail registration.)
8. Offer subscription services. Allow
your visitors to subscribe to get regular updates to your blog via
e-mail and RSS. Essentially, every time you publish a post, a subscriber
is notified to check it out. Plug-ins to allow subscription options are
likely available for your blogging platform of choice (most e-mail
marketing providers offer plug-ins that can be integrated into WordPress
and other blogging platforms to turn your blog into a comprehensive
list-building system). There are also a number of third-party services
that can collect names and contact info for you. FeedBlitz and Google
FeedBurner are both free services.
9. Trick out with social bling. The
more traffic you attract, the more opportunities you'll have for
generating leads. So be sure to outfit your blog with social-sharing
icons, particularly the big three: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Doing
so subtly encourages your visitors to share your content and allows you
to reach your network's network, which is a key attribute of social
media. Of course, this assumes that you are actively participating in
social media, i.e., engaging in conversation, and not just broadcasting
10. Remember one final thing.
Fundamentally, a blog is an opportunity: It's a way to connect with
customers in a real-time, accessible way. But your blog needs to be part
of your business, and part of your lead-gen efforts. Talk it up in
e-mail newsletters, in print collateral and on packaging materials. A
blog won't magically drive business without active and ongoing promotion
and participation--no matter how much inspiration Dr. Seuss imparts.
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