Capturing, Converting, and Nurturing Leads with Content


Annie Mosbacher and Kristin Spiotto are the Co-Founders of Decoded Strategies, a marketing and retention strategy firm that supports exceptional companies like McDonald’s, Synack, and Red Hat. In this guide, they walk through building lead-generating content, following up with emails to convert, and building a nurture program for leads that drop out.

Table of Contents

Why is lead-gen content important to your marketing organization?

It helps organizations meet their growth goals – lead gen and demand gen are powerful and important components of a marketing strategy. In order for any business to hit its quota for growth, they need to capture net new eyeballs or prospects who don’t already know who they are. Content can be a powerful tool to introduce yourself to new customers by sharing value right away. Content marketing enables you to share a bit more about your company and creates conversations that start on a warm footing.

Lead-generating content positions your brand as generous rather than pushy – Lead-generating content is not about immediately pushing a sale. Sales tactics like cold calls or outreach have their place, but content shares with leads a little about what you do, the problems you solve, and how you can benefit the lives of customers.

It can move leads through the buyer journey –  it allows you to share value with your audience without totally finishing the story for them. A lot of leads aren’t ready to make immediate purchasing decisions, but engaging with content builds a relationship in the way you want. It allows you capture their information, generate a new lead, and move them down the buyer journey.

How should you approach lead-gen content?

The goal is to offer highly valuable content to your market – they should not be hard sales documents, feature decks, or repurposed technical documents. Instead, create content that approaches a problem in your industry that you have expertise in and offer your guidance, solutions, or best practices. Guiding your audience through common industry problems is a great entry point to lead-gen content that will resonate with customers.

Every company should create as many lead generators as they can – you don’t have to double down on one topic or one medium. Small businesses may only have the resources for a single format (such as PDF, e-book, article, etc.), but ideally, companies create a lot of valuable content and share it. If you don’t have ample resources, think about the format with the lowest barrier for your marketers to create and how your channels perform historically. Start with what’s easy for your company to get up and running and then test and iterate based on what you learn.

Segmentation of industry and buyer persona can inform the formats you choose – how your industry and buyer personas consume information can inform the content and format that you deploy. If you’re selling to an executive operational decision maker, they’re probably drawn to different topics than a technical independent contributor. Segmentation helps you speak to the unique problems and pain points of different personas so the value you communicate resonates.

Lead gen content can help educate your audience about the problem – this is especially relevant in complex fields like cybersecurity. A lot of times, potential clients may know they have a problem but underestimate it, and then you have to do all of the education during the sales process. Lead-generating content can help you get a head start.

What kinds of lead-gen content should you create? What is each best for?

Content to bring prospects to your site
• SEO-optimized content – for example, Decoded Strategies offers two StoryBrand-focused lead generators on our website. We do a significant amount of business with leads who are familiar with the StoryBrand framework and need help applying these principles to their own marketing. Our two lead generators on this page are optimized for SEO, and the PDF performs very well with paid ads/promotion.
• Paid ads promoting lead-gen content – we love an ad strategy around promoting lead-generating content rather than the company behind it. You can A/B test ads that promote the solution vs. those that promote valuable lead gen content. The lead gen ads are great for capturing leads no matter what the intent of the buyer is and how far along the buyer journey they are: whether they’re looking for a solution, have a problem but aren’t looking for a solution yet, or if they don’t know they have a problem yet.
• Organic social media – LinkedIn content is a really powerful way to get lead-generating content out there. Building a social media strategy that organically puts you in front of people is very valuable. Investing in nurturing your LinkedIn audience with quality content creates a warmer pre-existing relationship to encourage them to download, register, watch, etc.

Content to capture leads
Lead magnets/lead-generating PDFs – calling these whitepapers can be a bit dry, so we call them lead magnets. We want to move away from the academic “look how smart we are,” connotations of a whitepaper and move into a mindset of sharing expertise that anchors in helping people. See examples below:
 Cloud Security Product Lead Generator
• Software Company Lead Generator


Webinars these are excellent lead generators and great places to share content and value that’s widely available in exchange for an email address. Everyone is accustomed to giving their email address away in order to register for a webinar.
Email-gated videos or blog posts – a lot of companies are playing around with creating mini-courses or videos on a topic. If you can sit in front of a camera for 10 minutes and record something of value for your audience, people will absolutely exchange their email address for it. If you have a blog post that’s very popular, you can turn it into lead-generating content.
– Website forms or pop-ups – do not ignore the low-hanging fruit of putting lead generators throughout your website. You can have a pop-up or form on your homepage. If people aren’t ready to book a call yet, they might be ready to download a guide from you.
– Send content offers to cold leads – getting a lead’s assent to send them a PDF serves as a powerful opt in to hear from your marketing. Send an email that blends a cold email and offers the lead generator. If the cold lead requests the PDF, then you send it and put them on the automated follow-up flow for warm leads.

Example lead magnets (links above):

Content to nurture leads
Email campaigns – if a lead is interested in a certain topic that a business has a lot to share on, you can write a sequence of 3-4 bite-sized emails that drip out over time and can be a really powerful way to share a checklist or list of best practices.

How do you describe your lead magnet to increase the chance of capturing a lead from it?

Press on the problem that is solved in the guide – when creating titles or naming assets, it is important to focus on the problem that the asset solves. Titles should reflect the pain points that the asset addresses. By communicating the actual benefit or value of the asset, readers will be more likely to engage with it.

Title the content to reflect the benefit or value the audience gets from it – when creating titles or naming assets, it is important to focus on the outcomes that readers can expect from the document. Leaning into the problem that the document solves, as well as the outcomes that it provides, can be a compelling way to engage readers. Positioning assets as problem-solvers with valuable outcomes can help increase engagement.

When positioning webinars or events, communicate what participants should expect to get out of it – when promoting webinars or events, it is important to communicate what attendees can expect to get out of the experience. Listing the names of impressive speakers is not enough. Instead, focus on the problem that the event addresses, the experts that will be sharing tips and best practices, and the outcomes that attendees can expect to gain from the experience.

Use a conversational and clear title – we recommend staying away from jargon or acronyms or anything that will take a bit of extra time for people to unearth what you’re trying to say. Be super clear with conversational and simple language that makes it easy for people to quickly identify why they should care about this.

Your company name shouldn’t be front and center in the title-  content that features your product or service in the title should likely be considered sales materials. Lead-generating content shouldn’t be the top five reasons why your product can help- it should be about best practices, tips and tricks, and effective ways leads should solve those problems. Now, you don’t have to completely invisibilize your brand here. It’s ok to include some insight about how your company helps solve these problems; just make sure that is not the primary focus on this asset. 

What are some effective ways to personalize content for different segments of your audience?

Look at your core story for the overall brand, and then target stories for specific audiences – before you begin to personalize any information for an audience, you want to figure out what the core story is that resonates across personas. What do they want from you as a brand and what is the problem you can solve for them? Once you have a core story, you can create content that shows how you can help solve their problem.

Segment as much as possible – this will maximize the power of lead-generating content by helping you create content that appeals to individual audiences. You start with your overall brand message and that will be the cornerstone from which you can build content for different zones of segmentation.

There are three main ways to start segmenting your audience:

  • Industry segmentation – you’ll likely sell into multiple segments within your primary industry. if you sell to the government, for example, you might segment by federal, state, and local audiences—because each of those different segments will have nuanced problems with different solutions.
  • Persona segmentation – who are the different stakeholders you need to get buy-in from during the sales journey? They are going to have very different and specific problems and pain points. You can get very specific with the content you create for each.
  • Product line segmentation – each of the product lines you have is probably solving a bit of a different problem. You can build different messaging around each of the problems that you solve.

Invest in mapping out the stakeholders involved in the sales journey – you want to identify the personas you have to appeal to throughout the sales process. The journey might start with a middle manager who’s researching for their Director, and you may need to appeal to the CEO for final approval. Identify each audience and their needs.

What lead information should you capture in exchange for content?

Capture the least amount of information you need – you want to lower the barrier for perusing viewers to give you their email. If you’re asking 15 questions to give out a three-page PDF, you’ll lose leads.

Capture in the formThink twice before asking for…
• Name
• Email
• Company Name (depending on your business)
• Budget
• Company size
• Questions that address qualification

There’s more room for explicit qualification questions in the mid-funnel – keep it short and sweet at the top of the funnel. You need to first start nurturing the relationship with leads and you can do qualifying later. Don’t gather information if there’s nothing you can do to act on it. Don’t ask for their industry if you’re not using a CRM that tracks that.

Lead-gen content can qualify with the use of a niche topic – if you deliver cybersecurity for school districts and you have content addressing that problem, it will sort for leads that are likely good customer fits. If you only want to work with individuals with a net worth of $1M+, then content addressing mistakes people make with their first million dollars will do a great job of automatically qualifying.

What is the architecture of a lead-generating content journey?

Step one: Lead interaction with lead gen content on website – this might be a PDF or other content offered in exchange for an email address or other piece of content that demonstrates interest. This should be delivered to the lead via a quick email.

Step two: Send a speedy 5-email follow-up sequence – you want to register if they’re ready to buy or if they’re just interested. This initial email sequence is intended to share more of your brand story as it relates to the topic of the lead generator. This is where you reiterate the problem you solve and how you solve it. You can overcome some common objections in the industry that might block buyers from proceeding. You can build your authority as a business and why you are competent, and share your full story. The hope is that people who are ready to purchase should be captured with sales calls to action.

Step three: Deliver the lead to sales or to nurture content drip – after the 8-day email sequence, leads that are promising are sent to sales for personalized outreach, and leads that don’t show an indication of readiness to buy are put on a nurture content drip. You can send them regular email content with the same principle as lead-generating content: it’s valuable, helping them solve problems, and doesn’t have a super hard sales push. Nobody wants weekly sales emails for months on end, so this is where you go back to positioning them as the hero of the story.

How can you create an email sales campaign that resonates with prospects?

Every email in the sequence needs to have a job – before you send any content as a follow-up, ask what the goal of that particular email is. If you don’t have a good answer, don’t send it until you do.

Example five email sequence over 8-10 days:

  • Deliver asset – send the content they request and keep it short and sweet. Name the problem you solve and the solution you offer but don’t make people read a lot.
  • Establish problem – you really want to go deeper into the problem you solve, the common pain points they might encounter, and how you solve that.
  • Authority – position yourself as the guide that the customer is looking for. You also want to show empathy for your customers. If you show that you know what they’re going through and you have the authority to solve it, it’s going to make your messaging more palatable to your customer. This is a great place to showcase a testimonial or statistic about how you help.
  • Overcome objection – salespeople will hear similar objections across buyers. Ask them for the most common objections, figure out how they overcome them, and then address that in your email.
  • Tie it together in a sales email – talk about the problem, how you solve it, and sprinkle in a bit of authority establishment. Talk about the success and benefits of working together. Make sure you have a clear call to action to do business together.

How do you measure the success of lead-gen content? What is “good” conversion, and what should you do if conversion is low?

You cannot think about a lead generator in a vacuum – you can’t think of it as a one-time request for download and you send content and wait for conversion. It needs to go hand in hand with nurturing the lead to the right place in the journey, and needs to be considered within the context of your larger sales and marketing funnel.

The most important metric is how many people are requesting your lead generator – if you have good campaigns in place to nurture those audiences, regardless of their intent to buy, you create a great opportunity to convert leads into sales. The more people you capture through offering the lead generator the better the foundations you’ve built. This is why focusing on creating compelling content that people want to access is important.

Just because someone doesn’t buy immediately doesn’t mean you’ve failed – a huge number of people will convert months or even years after first downloading your lead gen content. You can look at how many sales calls get scheduled off the PDF, but you’re goal should be to identify and capture leads at many different stages of intent.

You’re not going to create perfect content right away – you might see results that you don’t expect because you don’t know exactly what kinds of content will resonate with buyers at first. If your first try doesn’t hit, look for what else is working throughout your content ecosystem and hopefully, you can alter your efforts without a massive cost.

How should you “sort” leads that come in from content (e.g. to actively sell vs. to nurture)?

Actively sell them if they show interest – once someone expresses interest in the broader story you tell about the industry problem you solve, come in and talk about how your business can solve that with the five emails. At that point, you have data points to sort them. If they’ve opened all the emails and scheduled a call, those are indicators to decide whether to pass the leads on to the sales team for personalized follow-up.

Indicators you might refer to when sorting leads into sell vs. nurture include:

  • Email opens
  • Requests for a demo
  • Interest in niche content that demonstrates they’re in your ICP
  • Information gathered in the lead-generating content form
  • Previous engagement with your content or social media
  • Supplementary market insights (e.g. from tools like Clearbit)
  • Other touchpoints between yourself and the lead

Should you put all leads into an automated campaign?

All leads that request content should go into an automated campaign – the sequence will fuel your marketing engine and you should be able to set it and forget it. Create a bunch of different messages that speak to all of your core audiences and create content that will deliver to all segments, then put everyone on a five-email sequence to try to capture intent. The more segmented this can be, the better.

Position and personalize the statistics and messaging for your different personas – your personas are going to have different needs. If you can position your lead gen content to a specific niche, then you can design a niche email campaign and nurture content to speak to that audience personally. Make sure you nail the problem that the audience is experiencing.

How can you use content to nurture leads that aren’t brand new?

Start by creating one campaign that anyone in your audience can benefit from – this is the best bang for your buck. From there, you can alter your campaigns to segment, but the best is when you can speak to everyone with different vantage points on the problems you solve. It should be sent to leads who never converted—SQLs who dropped off, former customers, and  even (eventually) existing customers.

Don’t push a hard sales pitch in your nurture campaign – that will be offputting. Instead, talk about the industry as a whole, the problems that you solve, lessons learned and best practices that are valuable to your audience generally. The goal for a nurture campaign is to deliver value and hopefully help your audience solve common challenges. When they are ready to purchase- your brand will be top of mind from providing support through your nurture email campaign.

Nurture campaign emails should go out once a week – they should be very conversational, straightforward, valuable, lightweight, and bite-sized. You can sprinkle in a sales CTA every 4-6 emails, but at this point, people will know your brand and if they want to schedule a sales call, they know how to find you.

What are the most important pieces to get right?

Create content that is actually valuable to your customers – lead gen content is not about making a sales pitch, it’s about attracting leads with content that provides value and proves you can help.

Position the content to attract an audience – don’t make it boring and dry, communicate the problem zone that you’re talking about and the value it provides. Showing some of the outcomes people can expect from the asset will boost conversions and download requests.

Lead gen is not only a set of tactics, it’s also an orientation – you can have a hard sales entry into the market, but lead-generating is a methodology and orientation to customers that’s centered on delivering value and nurturing relationships rather than jumping straight to the sale.

What are common pitfalls?

Positioning yourself as the “hero” of the story – lead gen content should not be centered on your offering or solution. It should provide information and valuable advice that offers a taste of your expertise and mastery of the problem you solve. If every paragraph you write in the content starts with “we”, that’s a good sign that the content is more about you than the customer. You don’t need to invisibilize your brand, but position your brand as the guide who helps your customers who are the hero.

Falling back on the hard sales push – the harsh reality of sales is that you cannot create urgency, you can only capture it. If your lead is not feeling enough pain from their problem right now, they are not going to purchase your product. Through strategic lead-generating and nurture content, you can deliver value to your leads and help illuminate different components of the problem they experience to help drive them towards a purchase in the future. Give it one solid sales push, and if your leads don’t convert, pivot to nurturing them.

Decoded Strategies
Decoded Strategies

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