As a fellow freelancer, I’m sure you’re not waiting for another article on how content marketing is what makes the world go round right now. What you might want to know, though, is how you can use content marketing, not to stay busy, but to effectively draw in new leads.
Let’s face it: we’re all producing content, all the time. Because we’re told to, and because we don’t want the algorithm Gods to punish us. But if you calculate the time and resources spent on all those pieces of content, and measure the actual ROI in terms of leads and conversions, you might want to throw in the towel and start that beach bar in Panama after all.
While that does sound great, bear with me. Because content marketing can—and should—be used to reach real objectives, beyond likes and reach.
In this article, I’ll focus on content—based lead generation. I’ll dive into what it is and where it fits into your market acquisition efforts, and I’ll give you some fresh ideas to immediately put that knowledge into practice. Grab another cup of coffee, and we’ll jump right in.
I’m sure nobody is creating content just out of boredom if they run a business. But ever since content marketing became so important, a lot of people have lost track of what it really is supposed to do. It’s not just about visibility and being consistent.
Content marketing done right helps you reach specific business goals, and you should tailor said content to help you with that.
So next time you write a blog post, post on social media or join a podcast, ask yourself: is this piece of content contributing to…
- Content marketing can be used to
- Raising brand awareness?
- Higher engagement?
- Direct sales?
- Customer retention?
- My status as a thought leader?
- Generating traffic to my website?
- Collecting high-quality leads?
Spoiler alert: one piece of bite-sized content, can’t do all of that at once. That’s why you need a content strategy, that maps out which of those—or other—objectives need your attention first, and what messages and types of content fit the bill.
Email marketing for your small business could make all the difference in your lead generation. Think your business is not newsletter-worthy? You’re approaching newsletters wrong! You don’t need to have a big announcement every week or month. That’s probably not what your audience wants to receive anyway.
Here’s a little secret: people don’t like to read about your business. They like to read about themselves. So, focus less on yourself, and more on them.
That’s how they connect what you do, to their life or business. For instance, if your expertise is managing social media accounts, highlight a client every week in your newsletter. Let them share their struggles they had or have with social media, and show how their feed now looks completely different from before.
The important thing is to let others do the talking in a lot of your content marketing. Speaking from your ideal client’s perspective is like trying to read minds, and people will tell immediately if it’s a little off. If you want to collect and nurture leads, make sure they feel recognized and understood.
Pop quiz: what’s the most important piece of content for a freelancer?
If your mind is at TikToks or whitepapers, take a step back—in time, if you will.
Portfolios are content. A lot of creators and creatives are churning out great-looking content every day, from blogs to reels, but when it’s time to seal the deal or get real leads, they lack one thing: a strong portfolio.
Let me rephrase that: you need several strong portfolios.
If you’ve been procrastinating work and found yourself on Instagram lately, like the rest of us, you might have stumbled across Jamie Brindle, who gives freelancers all kinds of advice in videos that have the cleanest of loops—but that’s not the most impressive part.
One piece of advice that really picked up in the freelance community, is to create several portfolios, for either the different parts of your service or business, or for the different clients you cater to.
Let’s say you are a freelance copywriter, like me. Even though you have your specialties and niche, you branch out regularly and enjoy working on different kinds of projects.
Sometimes you write blogs about cryptocurrencies, but sometimes you create SEO—proof websites for businesses in the finance industry. Oh, and you write killer email sequences for e-commerce businesses.
Those clients are all hunting for something else. One wants to see that you can write converting copy, the other is looking for a good understanding of complex topics.
Divide your portfolio up into two and promote or highlight them differently. Make a clear distinction on your website and in your landing pages between what you do, to make sure that leads only see what’s relevant to them at that moment.
You make it easier for them to decide whether to keep following you, or sign up for your newsletter—or however you collect leads.
Don’t be shy. We often don’t hesitate to share our content with our network, but we rarely put the name of a partner or client in our actual content—because we’re talking about what we’ve been doing.
Make your content revolve around real projects and collaborations. Not only will this demonstrate your skills better, but you also benefit from the reach of your client’s network. Because that’s what happens if you tag someone.
(Make sure it makes sense. Beyoncé has a lot of followers, but tagging her won’t get you fame. Trust me.)
For instance, if you see a great post on LinkedIn and have thoughts on it, share them while tagging the person that inspired it. This type of content marketing doesn’t even require your own content so to speak, because you’re drawing inspiration from someone else’s.
What it does show is how involved you are with your profession, and others might start following you because they also admire the person you tagged—which could turn into a valuable lead.
It’s easy to get lost in your own skills and knowledge—but how interesting is it for potential clients to read or listen to that? It’s not their field of expertise—and they need help, not education. So, your lead generation content should revolve around how you specifically help your clients reach their objectives and help their challenges.
How can you put this type of content in a format that feels natural? Write more case studies.
No excuses for this one. They are especially easy to write—because it’s not a piece of fiction. You describe the challenge your client faced, anonymous or not, your process, solution and the results.
This type of content is great for lead generation, because it shows potential clients how they could benefit from working with you, and following you.
When doing research for a content strategy, a lot of people focus on the keywords that they are going to use.
While that is absolutely necessary, it’s not everything. It often pushes you into the direction of writing blogs or whitepapers, but maybe your audience really wants short videos or long podcasts.
If done right, those different types of content can also be optimized for search engines.
SEO but also what types of content
My last piece of advice takes a little more work to set up, but could potentially be a lead-generating machine if your business is suitable for it. The tip? Build a course. Free, or really cheap.
There’s a reason why you get bombarded with online courses for every aspect of your life when you open Instagram. Admit it, sometimes you’re really tempted.
But what does that person get from you following their free course or challenge?
To show you how students convert into leads, let’s look at how a freelance web designer uses this trick.
Her main service is creating stunning WordPress websites. But she also sells a course on how to ‘boost your website’—basically by making it easier to find, set up WordPress and Yoast the right way—the basics.
She’ll show you how to create basic pages and edit them—and you might think, hey, but then I don’t need her anymore, do I? In most cases, you will.
She flipped her service upside down. Not only does she educate future clients on how to edit their own WordPress websites—which prevents her inbox from flooding with a lot of panicked emails—but it’s also a great lead generator.
Someone who might not be ready yet to invest as much money in having a website built for them, starts out with this. Once their business grows and they recognize the need for a really professional and slick website, she’s the first one that comes to mind.
The main takeaway? Take a good look at your lead generation process and visualize how you can make it more client-centered. Find out how you can make them part of the process, and not make it something you do to them, so to speak.