Many businesses have realized that content is a great way to turn web traffic into leads, but some of them took longer to get there than others. I spoke to a handful of companies, and they shared their successes and their challenges.

(Note: If you want to share how your own company uses content to generate leads, create brand awareness or thought leadership, reply in the comments below and maybe we can feature your company in a future column.)

1. The Dealstruck marketing department adheres to a "fail quickly" methodology when working on any type of marketing campaign. "Of the many successes (and even more failures) we've seen, content marketing continues to perform very well in a variety of ways," says Candace Klein, chief strategy officer.

Klein believes that content marketing now meets at an intersection of multiple mediums--SEO, public relations, and social marketing. All true. In fact, the old ways of PR are currently experiencing a renaissance as inbound marketing becomes a more prevalent way for businesses to attract customers.

Klein outlined a few of their successful and unsuccessful content marketing efforts:

Ongoing offerings: "We published an ongoing series of eBooks on the business lending process, which have resulted in organic and direct traffic, as well as opportunities in the press," she says. White papers can serve a similar function-show off your thought leadership and use it as a lead-gen tool.

Tent-pole content: "We create of ongoing infographics (some successful, some not) that detail the business lending landscape, and also highlight holidays and other important public events to increase engagement."

Inbound links: "We capture inbound links from 3rd party sites to support our long term SEO goals, all originating from highly authoritative articles from thought leaders at Dealstruck," she says.


2. For, blogging has been a key part of the growth of the company. "About half of our organic traffic to the website is due to our blog," says co-founder Christian Sculthorp.

His team turns readers into subscribers by capturing their email address on the blog posts. "We also add links to our category and product pages within the articles."

What they learned: "We try to write helpful articles that are based around the products that we sell so every post is relevant and that results in a pretty high conversion rate."

The mistake they made: "Not giving blog readers a CTA earlier on. When we started out we were just writing posts without really thinking about how they would turn in to customers. If I were to do it over, we'd have clear CTAs from the get-go."


3. One topic that Formstack wanted to tackle and share expert opinion on was the "7 Skills New Marketers Need to Succeed." While a bylined article or blog can stand on its own, there was no doubt that a visually-compelling infographic, shared with the press and promoted through social channels, including some savvy LinkedIn tactics, would provide more bang for the buck.

"Over a three-month period, the '7 Skills New Marketers Need to Succeed' infographic campaign earned us 32 pieces of media coverage," says Chris Lucas, VP of marketing. "This volume of media coverage greatly increased our share of voice online and increased our organic traffic throughout the duration of the campaign."

Lesson learned: Take your blog post material and find ways to transform it into an infographic.


4. As a financial advisor, Devin Carroll struggled for years to get noticed. He describes himself as one of many in an ocean of sameness. "I knew I had expertise in Social Security, but just saying so wasn't enough," he says.

Carroll didn't start to earn any recognition for his expertise until he started giving information away.

He began dispensing actionable and solid advice on his blog, Social Security Intelligence. "As a result of this 'free' information, I started to get noticed," he says. "Podcast and radio interviews started happening, CPA speaking engagements and other previously unreachable opportunities started coming my way."

Advice? "Give your best stuff away. Don't hold back good content."

Thinking through the math: "I think that of 1% (.5%) of the people who read my blog may eventually need my products or services and will become customers. So, if I have 1,000 readers on my blog in any one month I should have 5 good prospective customers. That's awful! I could probably do better by cold calling out of the phone book or with a simple yellow page ad. Somehow, I have to reach more people."

The key?

"More free content!" says Carroll. "The same numbers at 10,000 readers = 50 prospective clients. At 50,000 monthly readers I should have 250. The incredible thing about prospecting in this manner is that the same amount of work that gets me in front of 5 prospective customers has the potential to get me in front of 250!"