Before we make the decision to buy, we all go through a particular process. Marketers call that process the “sales funnel,” and it looks something like this:
It’s essentially a simplified customer journey: the steps consumers take while deciding what to buy and from whom. At the top of the funnel are people who are yet to be exposed to your brand. At the bottom are people who are ready to buy; they just need convincing that they should buy from you.
Every stage of the funnel is important, but it’s towards the bottom of the funnel where things get really interesting. To maximize leads we need to target the top stages of the funnel, but our end goal – generating sales and revenue – only happens when we get those leads to the bottom of the funnel.
To do this, we have to nurture those leads. There are a number of ways you could do this but arguably the easiest, most effective, and most cost-effective is email. Email sequences, to be exact.
In fact, according to stats reported by HubSpot, leads nurtured with targeted content result in more than a 20% uplift in sales opportunities.
In a moment, we’re going to go through a tried-and-tested process for nurturing leads and driving bottom-of-funnel results from your blog; but first, let’s touch on one of the most important factors in creating blog content that converts:
Creating Better Content
Your ability to generate and nurture leads is dependent in large part on the quality of your content. After all, if your readers aren’t getting value from your content, why would they want anything else from you?
This means that if your content isn’t up to scratch, improving it is the first step in driving bottom-of-funnel results from your blog.
So what constitutes “better content”?
It should be long-form
Long-form content is more detailed than short-form, and, consequently, offers more value to the reader. There’s also more content for search engines to read and analyze, which typically translates to better rankings and more traffic.
While there’s no hard-and-fast rule as to what constitutes long-form content, most marketers agree that 1500 words and up is a good figure to aim for.
It should include images
They help illustrate points and break up text, making it easier to read. Use them.
It should feature examples
Simplify difficult processes with screenshots, or, failing that, easy-to-follow bullet point or numbered lists.
It should be actionable
Explain to readers how they can put the suggestions you make into practice.
It should feature new ideas
Be as original as you can. Try to avoid focusing on ideas and strategies that your target audience has heard 1000 times already.
The points it includes should be proven
Legitimize your points and arguments with real-world examples and case studies.
It should be personal and tell a story
Why have you written this content? Why should people listen to what you have to say on this subject? Personalize your content by framing it in the context of your story.
Once your content’s ticking all the boxes above, you should be ready to start using it to drive bottom-of-funnel results from your blog. Let’s talk about how.
Using Your Blog as a Lead Generation Tool
Before you can nurture a lead, you have to capture it. Your blog is doing the grunt work for you – it’s either driving people to the site, or engaging those that are already on it. Your next challenge is to learn a little bit more about those visitors by getting them to hand over their details.
- VIP demos
This tool is designed specifically to drive leads from bottom-of-funnel blog content. By this I mean content aimed at potential customers that are seriously considering buying from you.
To capture those bottom-of-funnel visitors, you need to enhance your content with CTAs (which might sit above, below or in the sidebar of the content, or in a pop-up) that invite the visitor to sign up for a one-on-one VIP product demo.
This CTA should take the user to a short form. Exactly what that form contains is up to you but in this context it makes sense to ask for the prospect’s name, email address, and industry.
Anyone who completes that form gets placed in a segmented email list which will trigger an email sequence designed to set up a date and time for the demo.
- Blog subscriptions
This tool can be used to drive leads at all stages of the funnel, although its effectiveness increases as prospects move down the funnel and become more familiar with your company and content.
Simply put, offering blog subscriptions as a lead generation tool works because readers will subscribe to get more of what they want.
As with the VIP demo tool, place CTAs above, below, in the sidebar of the content, or in a popup (or a combination of all four).
A short signup form should be contained within that CTA. All you really need is the subscriber’s email address, but for the purpose of lead nurturing it helps to get their first name, too. That said, if in doubt remember that shorter is always better.
Again, once a visitor completes the form they will be placed in a segmented email list and a sequence of targeted emails will follow.
Content upgrades are an article-specific lead generation tool. By that I mean that each content upgrade is tied to the article it appears on. It’s especially effective when tied to in-depth content (or 10x content) and listicles.
Brian Dean explains in detail what a content upgrade is and how they work here; however, in short, they are a piece of paywall-hidden content that accompanies and enhances the article it’s linked to.
The upgrade itself could simply be the article in a downloadable PDF. Alternatively, it might be a downloadable checklist or “bonus” points or tips.
Exactly what the upgrade is doesn’t really matter, so long as it genuinely adds value to the user. What does matter is that it’s being used correctly to capture that user’s details so they can be placed in the relevant email list, and the email sequence can begin.
The CTA itself is best placed within the article itself, like so:
Alternatively (or additionally) it can be placed below or in the sidebar of the content, or in a pop-up (just make sure to give the user a chance to read a good chunk of the content before pushing the upgrade on them). Once again, limit the barrier to entry by asking only for the prospect’s first name and email address.
Nurturing Leads through Segmented Email Campaigns
Using your blog as a lead-generation tool is only the first step in driving bottom-of-funnel results from it. Very few of those leads will be ready to buy, so you need to nurture them until they’re ready to make a purchase.
We already know that new leads should get placed in segmented email lists. There are lots of ways you might segment your email lists, but there are two we’re going to focus on here.
Leads segmented according to interest, and leads segmented according to industry.
Leads segmented by interest
The majority of leads will be segmented by interest only.
How do we know what a lead’s interested in?
We could ask them, but we know we need to keep our sign-up forms as short as possible. With this in mind, their “interest” would be dictated by the subject of the content they converted on.
For example, we can assume that someone who converted on an article about using Facebook in marketing is interested in social media marketing. They would then be placed in a list that ensures they are exclusively (at least initially) sent emails and content about social media.
Leads segmented by industry
When a prospect converts on a bottom-of-funnel content piece – like the VIP demo mentioned just above – we’re ideally going to want to segment them according to their industry. This is because you’re going to want to nurture them with emails that align the features of your product with pain points that are typical of their industry.
It will also help your sales team understand the prospect’s needs, so they can sell to them more effectively.
Unfortunately, to get this information, you’re going to have to ask for it. That probably means adding a third box to the signup form.
Once you’re successfully segmenting leads into appropriate email lists, you’re going to want to create the email sequences that will nurture them, and push them towards converting.
Let’s run through the email sequences you might create to nurture leads coming from each of the lead generation tools discussed just above.
VIP demo leads
Anyone who’s filled out a form asking for a product demo is either very near to, or at the bottom of the sales funnel. In this case specifically, the lead has stated outright that they would like a product demo.
This means your first email would ask the prospect when they would like the demo to take place (you can see a template for this and all email subject lines in the sequence just below).
Bonus tip: you can streamline the booking process by providing a link to a calendar that they book themselves straight into.
Needless to say, if the prospect converts as a result of that email, the sequence ends.
If they don’t, they should receive a follow-up email a few days later. You may want to personalize the follow up, in accordance with the prospect’s interests or industry.
Again, if the prospect converts, the sequence ends.
If they don’t, a third and final email should be received, again a few days later. You’ll probably want to personalize this one, too, with the prospect’s interest or industry. Another good trick is to begin the subject line “Re:” as a reminder that they have initiated the conversation by asking to arrange the demo.
Blog subscription leads
The first email a blog subscription lead should receive is a simple “thank you for subscribing” email. That’s all the subject line of this email needs to be, but again, you can see the template for this and subsequent email subject lines in the sequence just below.
Bonus tip: ensure whoever sends this email sends all of the emails.The sequence might be automated, but this goes a long way toward personalizing the interaction.
Email two sends the subscriber a piece of content that’s relevant to their interest, and that also demonstrates your product’s link to this and how it can help resolve the prospect’s (assumed) pain points.
This will subtly help funnel subscribers towards your product.
Email three should be a sales email, similar to the first email you might send to a VIP demo lead. You’re simply asking if they have time to talk that week about their subject of interest.
If they convert at this point, the sequence ends. If they don’t, they receive a fourth email.
Email four should be a case study that highlights the value your business can add to them.
Email five is sent regardless of whether or not the lead clicked through to the case study. This email should offer a discount. It should also offer a demo or call of some kind.
If the lead converts, then great. If not, they get sent to the general newsletter segment.
Content upgrade leads
The first email a content upgrade lead should receive is the content upgrade itself. This should be delivered the moment they request it (once again, you can see subject line templates for all emails in the sequence just below).
Email two should be an example article – similar to what you would send a blog subscription lead.
Email three should be a sales email – again similar to what you would send a demo or blog subscriber lead.
If they convert at this point, the sequence ends. If not, they receive a fourth email.
Email four should be a case study. It needs to demonstrate how your business might add value to the lead.
Email five should offer the subscriber free access to an on-demand resource like a webinar, video, or podcast – something with your voice on it, or better yet, your face. The idea here is to further the relationship the lead has with you before they receive the next sales email.
Email six should be another resource that helps educate the customer on your product’s link to their interests and pain points – for example, something like “proven strategies for success in [their interest].”
Bonus tip: the resource should highlight your product’s features and benefits through product pictures or (if it’s a tool) screenshots of it in action.
Email seven is a sales email – a discount or coupon. Add urgency with a time limit (seven days is fair). It’s also a good idea to send a reminder email 24 hours or so before the discount or coupon expires (assuming, of course, that the lead hasn’t converted).
Once again, if the lead converts, great. If not, they get sent to the general newsletter segment.
Bear in mind that all the suggestions above are just that – suggestions. Use this strategy as a guide for effective email nurturing, but remember that what you include in your email sequences, and how many emails you send, is totally up to you.
Do you already nurture leads using email sequences? Does your strategy differ from what we’ve outlined here? It’d be great if you could share your secrets and let us know how effective they’ve been – comments are below: