Creating a budget for your sales team is no easy task. You’ve got a lot to consider: whether to attend conferences and trade shows, where and how to acquire leads, how large your sales staff needs to be, and so much more. Ultimately, your decisions will come down to what best helps your bottom line.
As the VP of client experience at Influence & Co., I have the opportunity to speak with plenty of sales and marketing departments about their budgets. What I’ve found is that many of them are looking to spend more on outreach, specifically on face-to-face interactions with customers at trade shows and growing their team.
This is actually music to my ears. The beauty of content is that it's incredibly valuable to many sales strategies. At Influence & Co., we've found that content is a wonderful tool for our sales team to use in a variety of ways, including boosting our presence at conferences and events and nurturing leads. The truth is, when you're investing in the face-to-face elements of the sales process, you absolutely need content to make it all stick and to enable your sales reps to do their best jobs. You can't really do one without the other.
Sending a sales team to a conference without any content is like sending your troops into battle unarmed. Here's how great content equips your sales troops during face-to-face combat:
Third-party validation. Having guest posts published by your employees in respected publications is a great way to gain third-party validation that really impresses leads.
Here is one of our sales rep's articles in SEMRush Blog.Differentiation. Having an article that explains why your company is different and what your company offers that makes it so great will really help leads make a decision.
Here is one of our blog posts on differentiating content marketing — what we do — from influencer marketing.
Understanding. Content can show leads that you've done your homework, looked into what drives their needs, and really understood what their frustrations are and how to help them.
Here is our Content Strategy Checklist, which helps guide leads who are putting together a content strategy and aren't sure where to start.
But having content isn't enough. Your team has to use it effectively at these events to build trust, showcase your company's abilities, and stand out among all the other companies you're battling with for attention. Here's some ways that content can be used effectively at your next conference.
If your sales rep is lucky enough to meet and converse with a cold lead at a networking event, a LinkedIn request is most likely the next thing that lead will see. What if a visit to your sales rep's LinkedIn account reveals that she has written no articles and has no connections? That won't bode well.
That's why I strongly encourage having your sales reps create their own portfolios of content, as well as build up their social media profiles, prior to these events. These two efforts show leads that your sales reps aren't just random people they met at a conference. Before your sales team members head to the next conference, make sure they update their LinkedIn profiles and add their guest-contributed content (or even create new articles to publish on that platform) to help showcase their expertise and knowledge in the space.
If you invest in a booth or pay for a goodie bag insert, you can't just provide a sticker and call it a day. You have to create something that is really going to stand out because there are a sea of people at these events, and things can move pretty quickly.
Doing something simple can make a huge difference if it actually provides value. Consider showcasing publication badges or handing out copies of your most valuable whitepapers and resources. A sticker is fun, but a one-sheeter on a topic that helps solve a lead's problem solidifies a lasting impression.
We often use conferences as a chance to interview well-respected and insightful attendees. Showing these individuals the content that we consistently publish in credible online publications opens the door to these interviews and enables that first touchpoint.
Introductions aside, we use the valuable information that these individuals share with us to create pieces of content that our audience members crave — high-level, educational content that cites trusted industry leaders. Expert input provides more substance and credibility, and the content typically gets more shares.
Content is your most effective tool for keeping leads happy and interested. Once the convention center doors close, it can be used to address pain points along the buyer's journey and continue the relationship through consistent outreach. Using content is a great way to help your sales team gauge whether or not your services can actually help a lead. For example, at Influence & Co., our leads fill out checklists that evaluate their current marketing strategies, which enables our salespeople to step in and offer targeted solutions.
Before you decide to move your sales budget away from content marketing and toward outward-facing strategies, remember that these efforts are stronger when used together. One substantiates the other. If you expect to see real results, then content marketing should absolutely be a part of your battle plan.