Where does brand building end and lead generation begin?

Tailoring your tactics for different stages in the funnel

January 18, 2016

Smart B2B marketers know that they can’t separate their approach to demand generation from their approach to brand building. You can’t hope to generate leads and drive conversions indefinitely if you aren’t also continuously seeding awareness and building the credibility of your brand, refilling the funnel from the top. Brand building and lead generation are inexorably linked – but they also involve subtly different objectives, which require slightly different approaches.

The most effective full-funnel marketing strategies use a broad mix of content, delivered in different ways, depending on which area of the funnel they are targeting. Just as importantly, they measure the effectiveness of that content differently, depending on its role within the funnel. It’s understandable that B2B marketers pay a lot of attention to KPIs like number of leads, the conversion rates from those leads, and the length of time it takes to convert leads into new customers, but if these are the only metrics that you use then it’s no wonder that brand awareness gets neglected. Ironically, that neglect tends to then hurt your effectiveness over the longer-term when it comes to generating and converting new leads.

So how can B2B marketers develop complementary approaches to brand building and lead generation – and make sure they are filling the funnel at the same time as they nurture existing leads through it? Here are four areas where it pays to distinguish between your brand building and lead generation content – and tailor your approach accordingly:

Objectives and types of content:

The type of content you aim to create should be guided by the particular objective that you have. With lead generation content, the objective is pretty clear. Your goal is to convert a prospect’s initial interest in your area into a definite interest in your company and your solutions – and an indication that they are ready for you to get in touch. To do this, you need to create content that is valuable, relevant and timely enough for people to be willing to share their contact details in exchange for it. That value and relevance is really important, because once your prospect has shared their details, you can’t afford for them to be disappointed by what they get in return.

Prospects are much more likely to share their details in exchange for your content, if they are already familiar with your brand and have a sense of why it’s relevant to them. This is where brand building content comes in, the aim of which is to persuade potential prospects to buy into your perspective and approach. It does this most effectively when it responds to what’s front-of-mind – addressing current hot topics for the industry and doing so in a way that’s engaging and easy to share. The goal of brand-building content isn’t to get across your full credentials; it’s to initiate a conversation with the prospect and demonstrate that you have a contribution to make.

Distribution strategy:

The approach you take to targeting and distributing your content should reflect the objectives and role that it plays in the prospect journey. One of the most obvious and important decisions you need to make is whether to gate the content behind a data capture form. Capturing contact information has an obvious role to play with lead generation content – but it could get in the way of brand content’s objective of reaching as many prospects as possible.

The difference between brand building and lead generation should inform your targeting and distribution strategies as well. Broadly targeted display and social advertising (such as LinkedIn Onsite and Network Display) help to get your brand building content in front of large numbers of prospects in the early stages of the funnel. For lead generation content, you might want to take a slightly more targeted approach (for example, through LinkedIn Sponsored InMail), giving you the opportunity to personalise your approach for prospects later in the journey. The more targeted your lead generation content is, the more relevant and valuable the leads you generate will be.

Media buying:

The way that you approach the paid media element of your distribution plan should also reflect your objectives. With LinkedIn Sponsored Updates, for example, we recommend that marketers bid for audiences on a CPM (cost-per-thousand impressions) basis when they are distributing brand-building content, since their main goal is to expose as many of their target audience to the content as possible, and potentially generate additional earned media as a result. When they are interested in generating leads though, we recommend they switch to bidding on a CPC (cost-per-click) basis, ensuring that they pay only for audience members who are interacting with the content – and are more likely to share contact details in exchange for it.

Measuring success:

The metrics for measuring lead generation content’s success are a natural outcome of its role: the volume of qualified leads, the cost of those leads, and the number of conversions that they ultimately deliver. For brand-building content, you might need to consider a broader range of metrics to capture the contribution that content is making to driving awareness. Consider looking at impressions, engagement rates (likes, shares, comments and company follows on LinkedIn), the amount of traffic driven to your site, and the amount of time that people spend there.

Tying it all together through lead nurturing:

Synchronise your brand building and lead generation efforts effectively, and you’ll increase your chances of turning initial awareness into leads, and then nurturing those leads through to conversion. LinkedIn Lead Accelerator, which enables you to retarget anonymous visitors to your website, can greatly increase your ability to do so. Lead Accelerator overlays LinkedIn profile data to build an accurate picture of who those anonymous visitors are, so that you can tailor content to their particular interests and needs. And it allows you to specify a particular sequence of content to be presented to different types of prospects through a nurture stream. In this way, you can start with a more awareness-building approach before introducing gated content designed to drive leads, moving your prospects through different stages of the funnel.

Balancing brand awareness and lead generation content is just one of the ways that forward-thinking B2B marketers are rethinking demand generation. Find out more in the Demand Generation Marketer’s Guide to LinkedIn Marketing Solutions.