Influence & Co.’s sales and marketing teams talk to each other a lot — and not just because we’re a tight-knit crew. Our associates regularly chat and trade information via Slack, and one of the most common queries from sales to marketing is whether our company has published content that can be used at a specific point in the funnel or to answer a specific question.
When you plan appropriately, content does the heavy lifting for you. A prospect is worried that your solution won’t solve her pain points? Send her a case study of how you helped a similar organization. A potential client isn’t clear about your process? Guide him to an article that outlines your approach.
You should have a stable of content that can be applied throughout the buyer journey. To ensure that your content achieves this, evaluate your articles, blog posts, whitepapers, and other materials in relation to the funnel. Are there blind spots in your strategy? You might be surprised by the types of content people crave. In fact, our own marketing team was reluctant to talk about our offerings and advantage until we learned that those pieces worked at the bottom of our funnel.
Targeted, high-quality content can be enormously valuable to your sales team members by helping them overcome bad sales calls to actually shrink the sales cycle. But you can’t just throw a bunch of whitepapers and case studies at your sales team and hope for the best.
There may already be a few reasons why sales isn’t using your content — avoid adding to that list of reasons by creating guidelines indicating which pieces apply at different stages. This eliminates the guesswork in your team’s approach, arms your sales team with content, and helps them connect meaningfully with prospects and clients.
Build your plan around the following steps in the customer journey:
1. Content to Generate Awareness
The purchasing process begins when prospects with pain points start researching their options. Once their journeys begin, brands rush to court them. At this point, buyers pay attention to companies that reveal something inspiring about themselves. It’s not about the products at this point; leads want to know who’s behind your brand and why they should believe in you. People want to like you before deciding that they need you.
Your goal at this stage is to be likable. That way, when a lead’s pain point becomes urgent enough, she’ll call you. Earned media, or off-site content like guest-contributed articles or public relations efforts, serves this purpose well.
This type of content generates awareness among a broad audience and attracts opportunities for speaking events and other engagements. Remember, you want to target media outlets that put you in front of your core audience and enable you to gain credibility by speaking on industry trends.
2. Content to Provide Education
If you’re lucky, you’re already speaking with potential buyers at the education stage. But most leads prefer to gather data independently, so make information available without forcing it on them. Scope out what types of resources your competitors are sharing. When people can’t find what they want to know about your company, they’ll seek other options — and you may lose the opportunity to speak with them directly if that happens.
Content at this stage should answer who, what, when, why, and how. The more in-depth those answers are, the more likely leads are to see your company as uniquely capable of meeting their needs.
Owned media, or on-site content, works best at this stage. Blog posts, landing pages, and gated content that’s worth the download all fall under this umbrella. Each piece should emphasize the ways in which your company’s services and expertise make you the most reliable resource in your industry.
3. Content to Drive Action
It’s kind of crazy that we don’t actually speak with prospects until they’re at the last stage in the sales cycle. Inbound sales has created a lopsided relationship in which the buyer has all the power; people are practically experts about your company before you even schedule the first call, and they expect to hear a customized proposal during that conversation.
The good news is that this expectation often weeds out unqualified leads before you spend your time on a call with someone who will never work with you, and it reduces the number of calls you need to make before a qualified lead converts. If you come to the discussion armed with relevant blog posts, a pro-con sheet, comparisons to competitors, and a detailed plan for how you’ll solve their problems, they won’t need to make multiple follow-up appointments — and your risk of losing them decreases.
However, the pressure is on marketing to publish content that keeps leads engaged and moving down the funnel. You need to demonstrate how your product or service leads to increased ROI, what it will look like in the context of the buyer’s business, and how you’ll ensure and measure success.
Tying content to the stages of the customer journey ensures that you’re maximizing your opportunities to connect with prospective clients. Between your sales and marketing teams, you have plenty of collective knowledge on what prospects need and want to know. Use those insights to build a smarter, more effective content strategy.