Cunningham is CEO of Magnet Media, brand storytelling pioneer trusted by Fortune 500s & startups. Featured in CNN, The New York Times, SXSW.
If your company's growth has been based on reputation, it's possible that you've never designed a strategic approach to lead generation. But in this climate, it's critical that every business generates quality leads predictably. There are a number of tough choices within digital marketing right now. However, there's also a proven method of driving demand called growth hacking.
Growth hacking is a fairly new discipline within the field of marketing, where the outcome is focused on growth. It began with Silicon Valley startups and is used by creative marketers who employ data to innovate on breaking down traditional models of marketing to unlock massive growth in a short time on small budgets. Since then, it has been applied strategically to larger brands and corporations that have adopted these methods as part of their own digital transformations.
A Three-Step Tactical Plan
Our proprietary marketing process — Think/Make/Reach — involves using data to inform a client's brand storytelling and distribution. We’ve been fortunate enough to work with amazing marketers on their content strategies and production over the years. Here’s the secret sauce we’ve proven out with our clients, designed for both established brands and fast-growing startups.
1. Think: Content Strategy
Identify what your clients are looking for from your business and where your customers’ needs are intersecting with your business’s products or services. For us, this process involves constituent interviews, alongside a competitive analysis — comparing where you sit on social channels — and trending topics from search.
The end result is a content strategy that your team can reference throughout your creative process to ensure your content assets resonate with your prospects’ needs.
2. Make: Production
While it can be tempting to jump right into producing content, if you’re determined to drive leads, then it's essential to reflect on how you will be building your audience. We recommend beginning with a growth-hacking session. This can be a working session with your team where you run through the findings in the content strategy and use it to prioritize both the content formats and the distribution channels that will generate quality leads.
The next step we take is a creative review. You can do this by building a content calendar and structuring your campaigns around specific content series. This review should include a presentation of your storylines and creative approach, to effectively capture qualified leads at an efficient rate.
The final stage of “Make” is production. Here, we collaborate to ramp up production across key creative assets. These can range from a startup founder's story to a product overview video or a series of customer testimonials that are audio-only (for distribution in podcasts). These can also be included in blog articles and gated lead generation assets that prospects can download in the next stage.
3. Reach: Distribution/Engagement
The distribution and engagement step of your content is arguably a “make or break” stage of the lead generation program. The quality of your content will dramatically increase the success of your distribution. However, if you have brilliant content but do not pay attention to driving the correct discoverability (through search engines) and shareability (through social media), you will not generate the leads you need for the program to be successful.
We can think of distribution as broken down into two efforts: the traffic sources, and the offer or call to action (CTA). For most businesses, the most affordable traffic is from search engines and social media channels. While both can (and should) be amplified by paid spend, there is a baseline of visibility that can be achieved simply by publishing quality content consistently.
For search engines, you need to think about the basics of search engine optimization (SEO). Written content, as traditional as it sounds, is still the most readily available for search engines to scan and index. Therefore, your content plan should include blog posts that are easily discoverable by search engines and keywords you can purchase to scale up your traffic.
For social media, your channel prioritizations were made for you back in the “growth-hacking session” phase. At that stage, your strategist looked at your target audience and the data on the prospective channels and made decisions around priorities. There’s some combination of social media channels where you can use similar (not identical) content assets, but adapt them so they’re appropriate and optimized for consumption on each platform. Whether it’s LinkedIn, YouTube, and Facebook or Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok, you need to publish your content consistently in order to build your audience.
The next step is to drive traffic to targeted landing pages where there is a clear value exchange for your visitors: Why should they sign up?
If you're in a B2B market, it's common to offer an email newsletter — where subscribers receive a summary of content that’s been published on your blog and social channels — or an online webinar or virtual event. If you're in a B2C market, discounts, value-add education or gifts with purchase are all standard. The offer can also be a great way to feature customers and drive more word-of-mouth awareness throughout the customer community.
This system works because you’re identifying topics of interest to your audience and then creating affordable content and distribution methods to reach them at scale. Over time, as the campaigns run, you’ll see better results because you’ll have more data to factor into your analysis. At the start, the key is to map out strategically where you feel you can make the biggest impact and design content in a way that is highly discoverable and sharable. And then, offering a compelling call to action.