Since 2013, rapid changes to search algorithms, social media penetration, smartphone usage, and overall web usage has led to a serious shakedown in how business, both B2B and B2C generate leads. Leads are, after all, the life-blood of businesses.

To find leads on the web, businesses now have two main avenues. They advertise, as they have always done, but they also need to create content. Some studies have shown as much as a two-thirds increase in leads generation for businesses that use content marketing, as opposed to those that don’t.

But how do you create content that generates sales leads?

Discover questions customers are asking and answer them

To draw customers into your content, you need to start by offering something of value. To do that, you need to understand what your customers want to know. For example, if your company sells a new brand of low-VOC paint, you might understand that your product is going to be targeted towards parents, asthmatics, or those who are concerned about the environment.

To craft content that would interest them, you approach the product from their point of view. What would they want to know about your low VOC paint? How easy is the application? What’s the best way to apply it? But they might also be interested in style tips – what colors make a room look bigger? Cozier? What colors do you offer that match the Pantone Color of the Year? What colors would accent

Learn long-tail keywords

Short keywords tend to be much more fiercely competitive. To continue with our example, you might struggle to get on the first page of Google search results targeting “paint,” or even “house paint.” You might need to look for “indoor house paint safe for kids” or “low VOC indoor house paint.” Use the google keyword planner tool to find out what keywords your competition has failed to target, and build into that niche.

Optimize Landing Pages

Your landing page serves one single purpose, and targets one single audience. If you have multiple audiences for your product, you should have a landing page for each and every one of them. Landing pages are not multi-purpose.

For a landing page to be successful, it needs to be laser targeted. Everything on the page needs to point towards your one goal, which is most often capturing the users email address.

To create an awesome landing page, study other pages that are successful. Find the ones that make you give up your contact information without even thinking about it, and build yours in a similar model. In general, you want a brilliant headline build around your keyword phrase, a tagline that catches the customer’s attention, and a couple of paragraphs of content, perhaps a few bullet points, that show the customer what they’re going to get when they sign up with you.

Make sure it’s mobile optimized. More and more users are accessing your content on their tablets and smartphones. If your page doesn’t automatically resize and optimize for their phone, you’ve already lost them.

Make your content awesome and original

Your content needs to serve your customers, and not the other way around. If it’s too salesy, if every word is just a pitch for your product, your customers will quickly get bored and walk away, and you’ll rapidly find that you run out of things to say.

When you target your content to your customers’ questions, however, you will always have something to say. You can talk about the evolution of the product, the application, tips and tricks, real world applications, industry developments. You have nearly infinite options to continue to build trust between yourself and your customers, which will drive leads into your sales funnel.

Nurture email leads

Social media sites are a great way to get customer attention, but ultimately, your goal is to create an email list that you own. We never know what will happen with a social media site, and there’s no guarantee that your followers will come with you to the new evolution. When you capture emails, you can contact the customer when it’s appropriate.

Expect, however, that you will need to give them something in order to get their email. Access to exclusive videos, a free webinar, or a downloadable ebook are popular choices. This should be exclusive content that they can only get by signing up.

Honor permission

And of course, once you have their email, honor that they have invited you into their life. The #1 reason people unsubscribe from email lists is that they get too many emails. Remember this, and only email when you have something crucial to share.

Content marketing is, without question, absolutely necessary for any business that wants to succeed in the modern web. It is not only a strategy to generate leads, but also a useful asset to earn links to your website. What will you do to connect with your customers?