From Content to Customer: Why content strategy is critical to sales success

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Content marketing. Is it just the latest craze? Why should sales care, and why should management invest in this? These are the types of questions on marketing’s mind as the field attempts to justify reconfiguring its budgets and teams, and begins purchasing technology en-mass.

We’ll submit that content marketing is not new (re-read Ogilvy on Advertising, especially the section on Corporate Advertising) – but the practice is a much more structured and intentional process to have a measurable impact on sales. It is also reflective of a massive change in buyer behaviors.

Since content plays such a critical role in marketing automation overall (our area of expertise), let’s look at why the call for quality content has never been higher. And how that converts to new business and increased sales.

1. Buying habits have changed

A few entries ago we introduced the now often cited statistic that 57% of the B2B buying cycle is done online. That stat is now a few years old and we are seeing some claims that the number is as high as 70%.

Fundamentally, what this major social shift means is that sales does not have the ability to identify problems, set the vision and maintain control of the conversation as they used to, which is changing the paradigm of solutions selling. This is laid out more thoroughly in “the End of Solutions Sales” – a study available at the Harvard Business Review.

The new buyer has identified their problem and has already done a lot of research, including a preliminary level of solution qualification. This means they’re asking questions. But instead of asking your salesperson, they’re asking Google.

2.  Content marketing answers questions and helps advance the sale

If you accept the new buying paradigm, then content strategy should become a top focus of your sales and marketing efforts. Your buyer is asking Google (or Bing, etc.) questions they used to ask your salesperson. And you likely have some content there to answer it. But if your content isn’t fine-tuned to the perspective of the customer (most is corporate centric), then it’s probably generic, and you’ll be lucky if Google will connect the dots (Google will always favor the specific).

3. Getting the right content to your buyer is key

So if Google wants specifics, what can you do to get your content there?  Enter in the requirement for persona development and buy-cycle mapping (Chris Schermer provides a refined view of the B2B buying cycle  in his buying stream approach).

Each prospect involved in your traditional sales cycle has different triggers and different needs. C-level buyers need to understand what problem your solution solves (interest stage) for the company and that they are signing with a reputable supplier (decision). Users need to understand how your solution solves their problem (qualification) and whether or not its features will be sufficient for them to support the solution (qualification/decision).

That’s 4-5 pieces of primary content right there! And, as an added bonus, each piece of content returns specific intelligence – to sales – about what that prospect is interested in.

4. Technology helps qualify the prospect and engage sales at the right moments

Once you’ve got personas, buying stages and appropriate content for both, you’ve got the ability to measure and act on your content strategy. This is where your marketing automation and CRM platforms come in to play*.

By associating internal value to each piece of content and the prospect consuming the content you have the ability to assess the prospect’s value to the company and how you want to manage their buying path.  Here’s just a few ways to do that:

  • flag a prospect if they consume a lot of high value content on your website
  • draw them into a nurture campaign by providing relevant content behind a form – using topics they can self-identify with as being important
  • identify more serious prospects who are ready to move down the sales funnel by offering them appropriately suited content and/or offers
  • notify your sales team if the prospect has read X pieces of content AND has a key persona  title like “vice president” or “chief”
  • notify your sales team if one of their leads suddenly engages with a lot of content very quickly, indicating “critical mass” inside their organization
  • help your sales team craft personalized messages based on their prospect’s behavior AND track the prospect’s response to the message on their own

The list goes on.

The bottom line – content is key, but it needs to be intentional

Good content has always been central to marketing, but the rules have changed as buyers have changed. Content-led demand generation requires content to be focused, intentional, divided and individualized to the people who are consuming it. By mapping it to the buyer and the sales cycle, you can feed your marketing and sales efforts with better business intelligence – saving a ton of time and money, and providing sales with what it wants the most. Qualified leads.

* If you are just in the preliminary stages of developing your content marketing or demand generation strategy, having a flexible marketing automation tool and CRM are critical investments that give you a vehicle for content distribution, effectiveness measurement and lead qualification.  Vertiba is a Salesforce CRM Gold Cloud Alliance Partner and Pardot marketing automation preferred partner specializing in the system integration of these two platforms.  The capabilities mentioned above are functions of those types of platforms, and they are also part of a full suite of marketing services we provide.  If you just need help you with content marketing strategy and planning, we’ve got you covered there too.

By | 2014-09-30T03:16:10+00:00 September 30th, 2014|Best Practices, Pardot Marketing Automation|