When it comes to the role of business blogging in inbound marketing, there's no question that it fits quite nicely into the 'Attract' stage of the methodology. Because blog content makes excellent social media fodder and is naturally discoverable through search engines, it can be a phenomenal way to attract new visitors and prospects to your website. Furthermore, blogging also plays a critical role in the 'Convert' stage, since we all know how effective it can be for lead generation.
But there's another part of the inbound marketing methodology where blogging also fits -- and doesn't get enough credit. And while it may not be where most marketers would primarily put it, it can definitely have a significant impact here, as well. That, my friend, is in the 'Close' stage -- the stage of the methodology in which marketers are actively trying to nurture leads to a point of sales-readiness. Because not all blog readers are brand new visitors, right? I bet many of the leads in your database are reading your blog -- shouldn't you pay them some attention, too?
That's right! Not only can your blog help you bring in qualified visitors that you can convert into leads; it can also be a powerful lead nurturing tool. A bit of a marketing Swiss army knife, that business blog. So, are you ready to start squeezing more juice out of your blog in the middle of the funnel? Here are some great ways to start using your blog as a tool to nurture your existing leads.
11 Smart Ways to Nurture Leads With Your Blog
1) Implement Smart Calls-to-Action (CTAs)
I'm starting with this one because I think it packs one of the biggest punches when it comes to priming your blog for lead nurturing potential. Smart CTAs are CTAs that function dynamically -- they enable you to automatically display different CTAs to different visitors based on information you've already collected about them in your contacts database. For example, you may want to show brand new visitors to your blog a CTA for a very educational, top-of-the-funnel offer, but for blog visitors who you've already converted into leads, it may be wiser to show them a CTA for an offer that aligns with their position in the middle of the funnel -- one that will serve to nurture them into, say, a more qualified lead. A Smart CTA tool (like HubSpot's) can make all this possible. Read this post to learn more about how to implement Smart CTAs, and check out this other one to learn about how they can specifically apply to your business blog.
2) Blog About Topics Sourced From Your Sales Team
Your sales team is talking to your leads every single day. Think they might have some good blog content ideas based on the interests, needs, problems, and challenges of those leads? They also probably have some great ideas for content that can specifically help them close those leads as customers. Perhaps there's a topic you can blog about that salespeople can share with leads to tee up a conversation that will really help them demonstrate the value of your products/services. You'll never know if you don't open up those lines of SMarketing communication, now will you? Chat with your salespeople and create a shareable Google Doc or wiki page where salespeople can contribute their blog content ideas on a regular basis.
3) Enable Salespeople With Top Blog Content
Hey -- maybe you already have a lot of great blog content that can be used in the sales process. But do your salespeople know about all the content assets they have at their fingertips? Don't assume your sales team is reading every single post you publish to your blog. Make sure they know what's available, whether this means encouraging them to subscribe to your blog, sending them regular reminders about your awesome new blog content, or perhaps even putting together an internal newsletter of top blog content and articles you think would be particularly helpful to them during the sales process.
4) Email Blog Content to Segments of Unengaged Leads
Why leave it up to your salespeople to share blog content with leads when you have your leads database and email marketing software at your disposal? Consider reviving a segment of your leads who haven't engaged with you in a while by sending them some low-commitment blog content to warm them up again. For instance, you could segment your leads based on the subject matter of offers they've downloaded in the past and send them additional blog content that aligns with that same subject matter since you know they're already interested in it. This strategy could re-engage them with your content and, thus, help to make your business top of mind again.
5) Add Blog Content to Workflows
Remember: Not all content you use to nurture leads needs to be offer content that requires a form submission. Take our last tip one step further by incorporating some marketing automation and adding blog content to your lead nurturing workflows. Because your blog content is most likely very top-of-the-funnel in nature, the most logical place to incorporate it is early on in the workflow to ease leads in. Similar to the example from tip #4 above, you might kick start a workflow after a visitor converts into a lead on an ebook offer, sending an email that includes some of your top articles that align with the subject matter of that particular ebook.
6) Add Links for Blog Content to Other Parts of Your Website
Adding links for relevant blog articles to other pages of your website that leads are likely to visit (like product pages) can reinforce your position as an industry expert and, thus, help nurture leads into customers. If your business sells personal tax software, for instance, you could include a link for your blog article, "10 Ways to Get More Money Back From Your Tax Return This Year" on the product page that details the features of your software. This not only further engages potential customers with your content, but it also emphasizes your credibility as a business that can back up its products and services with industry expertise.
7) Weave Mentions of Your Products/Services Into Blog Content Where Appropriate
One challenge for businesses that really drink the inbound marketing Kool-Aid is they can sometimes end up being mistaken for a publisher rather than a vendor. And while establishing credibility as a publisher is definitely a good thing, you also want your website visitors to know that you sell stuff too ... right? One great way to reconcile this is to weave subtle product mentions into your blog content when appropriate. Just keep in mind that you need to strike a sensitive balance here. You don't want to turn off your blog readers by being overly promotional in your blog content, but they'll likely tolerate a product mention here or there -- and then when they're ready to make a purchase, your business may end up being top of mind! In fact, we did this earlier on in this very blog post. See?
8) Use Top/Sidebar Blog Real Estate Wisely
Remember: There's more to a blog than the articles themselves. You likely have some other blog real estate at your disposal (think the top banner and sidebar of your blog's homepage) that can be leveraged to meet a variety of goals, including nurturing leads! To piggyback off of our last point, check out how we use the real estate on the top of this very blog for a subtle product mention. (That's right; we suffer slightly from that whole "HubSpot is just a publisher" misconception ourselves, even though we indeed sell marketing software :)
Another great way to use your sidebar real estate for lead nurturing is by featuring CTAs for some of your more middle-of-the-funnel offers within Smart CTA groups (see tip #1) on the sidebar of your blog. Talk about low-hanging marketing fruit!
9) Link to Middle-of-the-Funnel Offers Within Blog Content When Appropriate ...
... kind of like we did in the last section of this post when we linked the anchor text "marketing software" to the landing page for our free, 30-day trial. After all, you're linking to other lead gen offers within your blog content, aren't you? Just like incorporating product mentions, this should be done in moderation. This time, the reason being that the majority of your blog readers are likely new visitors who know little about your business and aren't likely to convert on a middle-of-the-funnel offer right away.
10) Encourage Blog Subscription
Convert leads who are casual blog readers into dedicated subscribers who keep coming back for more -- so you can keep exposing them to and nurturing them with your content -- as well as all the awesome lead nurturing opportunities you've implemented on your blog using our tips above. Make blog subscription calls-to-action (email and RSS) clearly visible near the top of your blog, and check out our list of 20 simple ways to boost blog subscribers for additional ideas.
11) Promote Your Social Media Presence on Your Blog
Your business blog isn't the only typically top-of-the-funnel tool that can serve as an effective channel to nurture leads. Your social media presence can double as a lead management tool as well. Because this is the case, it's a great idea to use your blog to promote your social media accounts and encourage readers to follow you on social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter, etc. -- giving you yet another opportunity to promote your content and reach out to leads. Make sure to add social media follow buttons for the social networks you and your audience populate to the sidebar of your blog to make it easy for readers to discover where to find you in social media.
What other ways can you use your blog and its content as lead nurturing tools? Share your ideas in the comments below!