Have you ever felt like you’re pouring a ton of effort into content marketing and it should be converting more visitors to leads?

I’ve been hearing this question from so many people lately: what are the keys to converting that top of funnel audience?

Great content should help your visitors move through their buying decision. Content that converts top of funnel visitors has a terrific ROI. But how much of your content is paying off like you hoped it would?

I first met Kevin McGrath about ten years ago, when he was the co-founder at a boutique agency, helping marketers deliver compelling online experiences.

Since then, I’ve watched as he has taken that experience and poured it into Beacon, a platform that helps you create attractive compelling lead magnets from content you’ve already written, without hiring a designer or agency.


I was thrilled to be able to interview Kevin on the trends he’s seen across content marketing and what he’s learned about converting top-of-funnel visitors. (I’ve lightly edited the interview for readability).

These were my seven big takeaways after talking with Kevin:

  • Why email addresses and newsletter pop-ups aren’t enough
  • Content upgrades are the next big wave
  • Content marketing is a test of endurance and stamina
  • Not sure if things are working? Look for early signs of progress
  • Get ready to mix up your content formats
  • The solution to writers block is to start with the basics


Why email addresses and newsletter pop-ups aren’t enough

Tell me about lead magnets. What are they? Why are they important?

Lead magnets are essentially rewards that you give people in exchange for their e-mail address.

Think about an anonymous visitor who comes to your Web site. You don’t know anything about them. Chances are, they’re not going to make a purchase the first time they come to your Web site. It might take four or five visits but you can’t always rely on that visitor coming back to you.

You want to stay in touch with them throughout their buying journey and a great way to do that is to ask people for their e-mail addresses.

Like a newsletter popup?

If you land on a Web site and there’s a big pop up and it just says subscribe here for our newsletter, or “give me your e-mail address”…everyone is just going to ignore that form.

There’s no incentive for the user to give up their e-mail address.

Where lead magnets come in is they act as an incentive you can give anonymous visitors to your Web site. A good reason for sharing their e-mail address that makes it more likely they’ll do it.

When companies use lead magnets and this whole approach of creating value for the customers, they can see that conversion rates of opt in forms increase by like 500 or 600 percent.

What’s great is that these are anonymous visitors that previously would have been lost into the Ether of the Internet.

Marketers are now able to convert more people that land on their Web site into leads. By creating value for the people who are visiting and offering them something that’s really helpful, they’re willing to begin a relationship with you so that you can build trust over time.

Why is capturing an email address by itself not enough?

If you make an ebook, are people reading it? That’s one of the things that we do with Beacon: we give analytics on page views within things like ebooks. So you know if your content is actually working.

It’s not enough just to offer like an e-book or any sort of content to get the e-mail address and think, oh, that’s job done.

You know the e-book is successful because it’s generating leads. The real question - is that content nurturing leads, are people learning anything from it?

So it’s not just filling the funnel but getting people to take a step in the conversion journey. Its actually thinking about how you’re helping someone buy - what questions they might have, what they might be anxious about, what they need to learn for them to want to make the decision. And what I hear you saying is that digging deeper into the experience they’re having when they get that content is really important too?

Definitely. And the sales team will thank you for it!

Any sort of marketing that you’re doing like if it involves good quality content it’s helping to nurture the lead that seals qualified lead then. So everyone’s happy throughout the journey.

Email addresses are alone aren’t enough.


Content upgrades are the next big wave

What works today? Are there any examples of lead magnets that work really well?

One of the things that’s working really well at the minute is this notion of a content upgrade: a lead magnet that’s tied to a specific blog post.

You write your blog post like you normally would. And then what you do is you put together a specific lead magnet for that post and you offer it directly within the post to compliment the content of the article.

So what you find is people are reading the blog post, they enjoy the blog post if your content is good and then you offer them a bit of supplementary information to really enhance the original blog post.

To get the supplementary information people share their e-mail address. So this works really well because it’s so targeted.

For example, if somebody lands on a blog post about SEO, then you know that they’re interested in SEO. And you can even be more specific than that.

Once you know the topic of the blog post you can create any sort of enhancement to go with that. People are again more likely to opt in because it’s so relevant to what they’re reading. It’s really a timing thing makes it work.

I hear what you’re saying is that relevance is really important. And by being more relevant, that you can be clearer around what a visitor will get whenever they subscribe as well?

Yeah, absolutely. It works for both parties: the visitor to the blog post is getting something that’s truly beneficial to them. But then for the marketing team that’s writing the blog post, they’re able to get a lot more segmented information about the people that are opting in. So you know it works for everyone.


Content marketing is a test of endurance and stamina

What are the challenges that you see holding marketers back from doing this?

I honestly I think for marketers, when it comes to creating content I think it’s stamina.

Content Marketing isn’t like a quick fix. It doesn’t happen overnight. It’s 6-9 months of work of consistently publishing good quality content and getting it out there on a regular basis.

The truth is most people get bored before they start seeing any returns and it doesn’t mean that your strategy isn’t working in the six months but the payoff is so far down the line people get bored.

Marketers might struggle to justify the ongoing cost to senior management. I’ve spoken to marketers that know content marketing works. They know if they can implement a solid strategy that they’ll start to see returns next year. But management aren’t necessarily convinced. I think that’s definitely a big challenge.


Not sure if things are working? Look for early signs of progress

Are there any early indicators that would help a marketer see - actually we’re on the right path, and we need to be patient, vs.. this isn’t working and we should change up what we’re doing?

It all comes down to the initial strategy.

Content marketing is so much more than just writing blog posts. There’s a big focus on SEO, conversion rates from people that are coming through the blog.

These are indicators that you can track from the beginning.

The first time you set up your blog you’re not going to have any traffic. So then you just compare that the next month you have 10 visitors - brilliant, you’re making progress progress, the month after that, 15 visitors…you’re making progress.

As long as you’re going in the right direction like whether it’s page views, leads generated or even an increase in search page rankings.

All these things are indicators that will hopefully keep keep management happy in the short term, while you work for the long term.


Get ready to mix up your content formats

What’s the next big trend you see in content marketing?

That’s the million dollar question that everyone wants to know!

There’s absolutely no doubt that content marketing works and the results speak for themselves.

HubSpot is probably the best example: they built this huge business by marketing content and the results speak for themselves.

What we’re seeing change is that the content doesn’t just mean blog post anymore.

It’s videos, podcasts, everything else.

I think it’s about finding the content format that suits your audience the best.

So if your audience doesn’t have time to read a hundred page e-book, don’t make a hundred page e-book.

Make a podcast that you can listen to on the train.


The solution to writers block is to start with the basics

What we find is with people that are new to inbound marketing or content marketing, they get quite intimidated.

They think that every piece of content that we produce has to be the best blog post that’s ever written, the best e-book that’s ever been invented.

That that’s a real barrier.

People get writers block, they don’t want to publish the blog post because they think it’s not the best ever. I’ll come back and I’ll tweak it.

I don’t know what you’re talking about [laughter].

Everyone’s guilty of it. I’ve been guilty of it in the past.

What I would say is that not every piece of content has to be spectacular.

When you’re selling or you’re marketing to people who are at the beginning of the life cycle they need to know the basics.

Just package up the basics of what they need to know in a really clear readable manner. They’ll thank you for it. You don’t have to be writing a PhD every time you’re putting content out.

What’s been the biggest thing that you’ve learned since founding Beacon?

The customers have all the answers. Not necessarily that customers will tell you exactly what to build.

But if you’re in doubt about any aspect of your business, whether it’s pricing or features for a software product…you need to be speaking to customers. If you’re having trouble making a decision, it’s because you don’t have enough information. The customer has all the information you need so just you need to pick up the phone.

So you should be looking outside-in? Is that the secret sauce behind it that’s helped you make some of the decisions that you’ve made.

Yeah for sure.

Wrap Up

Kevin, thank you so much for sharing your ideas with us. I’m so thrilled you were able to join us. There is a ton of great advice here, and I will take it to heart for sure.

What does the future have in store for you and for Beacon?

It’s an exciting time for us at Beacon. We have our core product that allows people to create lead magnets without hiring a designer.

What we want to do is look at other parts of the lead generation cycle and see how we can apply the same principles and to help people generate more leads and then nurture those leads as well. We’ve got to got a few ideas over the next sort of six months that we’ll be test and so very excited about that.

Kevin, thank you so much. I really enjoyed our conversation today.