12 ways IT consultants can generate great leads from blogging

October 16, 2013

Get your thought leadership in front of the right decision makers, in the right places, at the right time.

Guest blogger Josh Feinberg from SP HomeRun provides small business tips in part 1 of his 2 part series on lead generating advice.

Blogging can be an extremely effective way for IT consultants to generate leads and acquire customers. Yet, few IT consultants blog regularly.

Lots of Untapped Potential

In SP Home Run’s June 2013 survey of 312 SMB technology providers, we found that only about 18% blog weekly and only about 5% blog daily. This is a shame because in its 2013 State of Inbound Marketing Report, HubSpot found that 82% of those who blog daily have acquired a customer using their blog.

However, getting lead generation results from blogging requires a time commitment over an extended period of time and a specific set of best practices, which I’ll introduce in this article.

Owned Marketing Assets vs. Temporarily Renting Eyeballs

But just to make sure that we’re on the same page, like most forms of inbound marketing and content creation, blogging isn’t an expense. It’s about building owned thought leadership assets that can generate leads for years to come. This long-term approach is in sharp contrast to renting visibility in channels like Google AdWords, where the moment you stop paying, the visibility disappears. However, in order for IT consultants to consistently generate leads from blogging, you need a game plan that covers the basics of blogging for lead generation:

  1. Develop Buyer Personas - Begin by surveying and interviewing your clients and potential clients to develop buyer personas that will guide your content creation and blogging. Personas should focus on common behaviors, pain points, goals, the buyer’s journey, and general demographics.
  2. Use Personas to Research Keywords - From the newly uncovered pain points and goals, you’ll end up with some consensus on what each persona searches for online. These questions, pain points, and goals should each be addressed in individual blog posts. Each blog post should focus on one single keyword phrase at a time. To give each of your blog posts a good chance to make it to page one of the search engine results pages (SERPs), take into account both the number of monthly searches for each keyword phrase in your region, as well as the level of relative competition.
  3. Write for Readers, Not Search Engines - While there are certain blogging best practices for on-page search optimization, at the end of the day you need to make your content engaging to keep readers’ attention. When blogging for business, with lead generation in mind, you’re generally educating readers and answering questions. If you don’t deliver good value and follow-through on the promise you made in your Title, readers will leave within seconds and that back button will signal to Google that your website doesn’t deserve to keep its current rankings.
  4. Craft a Great Title - Sure, using your targeted keyword phrase towards the beginning of the Title is key to letting search engines know what the article is about. But even more important, your article snippet won’t stay on page one of the SERPs for very long unless searchers are clicking on the Title. Like the subject line of an e-mail or the outside of a direct mail piece, the Title must be relevant and promise a highly-valuable benefit that’s consistent with one of your persona’s behaviors, pain points, and goals.
  5. Sprinkle in Your Keyword Phrase Very Lightly - Let’s say for example that you’re writing a blog post on Microsoft Dynamics CRM pricing. To make sure that search engines know that your blog post is about Microsoft Dynamics CRM pricing, that keyword phrase should appear early on in the Title, as well as in the article body, blog post URL, meta description, image ALT text, headings, and anchor text links. Long gone are days when it would be acceptable to “stuff” the body with a keyword phrase. Just cover the topics of the blog post naturally. And understand that search engines can now in most cases see close variations of the keyword phrase, such as in this case, price of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, as contextually equivalent.
  6. Write for Skimmers - While this may be hard to accept, most people will not read your blog post. Instead, they’ll look for headings, subheadings, bulleted lists, and numbered lists as a way to rapidly consume your content at a very high level. Then and only then will they decide whether reading the full blog post is warranted. This isn't 10th grade English. Write short sentences and short paragraphs. Use white space. Structure the blog post into chunks. And pull skimmers through the content with an easy-to-skim structure.
  7. Employ Eye Candy - Always include a photo or image above the fold to draw in potential readers.
  8. Link to Relevant Internal and External URLs - If you have a library of white papers, eBooks, checklists, or webinar recordings that reside behind landing pages, blog posts are often the perfect place to link to contextually relevant premium content offers. And don’t be afraid to link to 3rd party resources where they help to improve the content quality and the blog post’s perceived objectivity. Just be sure to use the open new tab setting (aka target="_blank" for HTML purists), so you don’t let readers accidentally wander off.
  9. Include Two Calls to Action (CTAs) at the End of Each Blog Post - Both need to be highly relevant to the topic of the blog post. Generally the closer these offers are to the exact topic discussed in the blog post, the higher the click through rate (CTR%) and conversion rate (CR%) will be. Why two CTAs? One offer should be geared towards a top of the sales funnel reader, such as a more in-depth downloadable ebook on the same or similar topic covered in the blog post. The other offer, commonly known as for middle of the sales funnel, may be targeted more toward the reader that’s further along in the sale process. In this context, product demos, case studies, product webinars, and ROI calculators can be a big hit.
  10. Use Text-Based and Graphical CTAs - The reader who goes through every single word of your blog post is more likely to click on a text-based CTA that leads to a landing page. The “skimmer” on the other hand is multitasking a dozen other projects and more likely to be attracted to a large, color-contrasted CTA graphic.
  11. Ask Enough Questions to Properly Qualify Leads on Your Landing Page Forms - All too often, I see IT consultants being way too timid in their lead gen efforts. Collecting First Name, Last Name, and E-mail Address really tells you next to nothing. While you don’t want to go overboard to the point where you’re scaring away potential leads, don’t be afraid to ask a handful of your critical make-or-break lead qualification questions, such as location and number of employees.
  12. Amplify Your Reach with Social Media and E-mail Newsletters - If you blog regularly for lead generation, each and every blog post should be promoted on your personal and company social media accounts, as well as in your e-mail newsletter. Since the half-life of a Tweet is extremely short, be sure to repeat your blog content announcements. And if you really want to crank things up, use each and every heading, subheading, bullet point, and numbered list item as a separate social status update to schedule out over the next several weeks and months.

So if you’re an IT consultant that wants to generate more highly-qualified leads from your blog, be sure to tap into these 12 best practices to get your thought leadership in front of the right decision makers, in the right places, at the right time.

Joshua Feinberg is co-founder and CMO of SP Home Run Inc., an IT channel inbound marketing agency that helps find clients, retain clients, and grow by using proven inbound marketing systems. To learn more about how your IT consulting business can attract the right visitors to its website, convert visitors to leads, close sales with new clients, and delight clients for long-term retention, download your free copy of the IT Channel Inbound Marketing Planning Guide.