No matter the department you're in, you've probably heard the inbound marketing mantra at some point: content is king. The fact is, the right content—meaning the kind that delivers relevant and useful information to customers and employees when and where they need it— is what's king. Meaningful content helps your organization achieve its top objectives more time and cost-effectively than virtually any other strategy.
Content Marketing Works
To assert that content marketing is "effective" would fall several steps shy of the facts—the truth is that, when effectively leveraged, content marketing can be a game changer for your business. Why? Because the right content can deliver information that consumers and employees need to answer their most pressing questions and solve their most pressing problems—and that engenders trust, the kind of trust no other marketing strategy can provide.
So, just how effective is content marketing? For the answer, consider these metrics:
- Content marketing on average generates three times as many leads as paid search advertising
- The cost for leads generated via content marketing is more than 60% less than for traditional, outbound marketing strategies
- Small businesses and companies with active blogs generate 126% more leads than those without them
- Companies that front load blogs are thirteen times more likely to see a positive return on investment (ROI)
- Almost half of buyers will consume three to five pieces of content before they're willing to speak with a sales representative
Here's how Content Marketing Institute describes the power of content marketing:
"Content marketing has been moving at the speed of light in recent years. Why? Consumers are fed up with in-your-face advertising and sales tactics that feel cheap, slimy, or underhanded. Instead, they're attracted to authenticity, transparency, and friendliness in a brand. The advent of the internet and social media has a lot to do with this. These channels help consumers pick and choose exactly which brands they interact with. If people don't want to see your ads, they'll click away – it's as simple as that."
How Can The Right Content Boost Sales Opportunities?
Simply stated, the goal of lead generation strategies isn't more leads—it's more sales. Said differently, there's little point to investing substantial time and energy in lead generation if you don't have an effective strategy to nurture those leads so they're responsive to your sales team. Lead nurturing is so important in fact that businesses with effective lead management strategies have sales teams that follow up on more than 75% of the leads sent to them from marketing.
If your content marketing strategy isn't producing the results you expect, it's likely because of two related marketing boondoggles:
- You haven't developed a smart process to nurture and qualify leads before sending them to sales.
- Your salespeople aren't themselves leveraging content to reinforce their relationship with new leads.
How Can Salespeople Use Content to Close More Sales?
First, a caveat: content marketing as a vehicle for providing information that's useful, relevant, influential and accessible isn't limited to sales enablement. To be effective, the content you deliver needs to provide information that's tailored to the needs of your audience, period.
We recommend the following 4 strategies to build impactful content:
1. MAKE A GREAT FIRST IMPRESSION
Once salespeople have their "captive audience," the first piece of content they send—whether it's a blog, an intro email, or a social media post—needs to be authoritative, persuasive and useful. Above all, it needs to explain what's in it for your target audience and what they can expect to happen through the course of your developing relationship. Aligning your initial content with the needs of your audience—and answering their top of mind questions—will promote the trust you need to ensure a successful outcome.
2. ADDRESS LIKELY OBJECTIONS
People don't jump from skepticism to trust in a single bound. Experience has taught them to question your motives, not to mention your competence, and the quality of the products and services you offer. Said differently, the most challenging obstacle to the effectiveness of your content strategy is the power of "no." Your job is to anticipate, based on everything you know about your target audience, the key objections they're likely to raise—and then to create incremental content that effectively addresses those objections, one by one.
3. FOCUS ON BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS—NOT ON INDIVIDUAL TRANSACTIONS
As the old saying goes, "It's not over 'til it's over." The fact that you impressed people with a strong first impression and effectively addressed their initial concerns doesn't mean they won't jump ship if you disappoint them somewhere down the road. In other words, you need to deliver content in such a way that you continually and consistently build upon the relationship you've begun. That means questioning the relationship-building value of every piece of content in your series, ensuring that each adds something new, relevant and useful.
4. GIVE YOUR SALES TEAM THE TRAINING AND RESOURCES THEY NEED TO SUCCEED
There's little point to creating a great content series if your salespeople don't buy in to it, don't understand it or can't easily access it when and how they need to. Put another way, for your content to work, you need to sell your salespeople on the utility and value of the content you've created. One way to do that is by bringing them into the content creation process early, getting their feedback and incorporating their front line insights into your content. Another is to leverage a customer relationship management (CRM) platform that lets them quickly and easily find and use the content they need for every customer when they need it.
If the goal of your content is to enable your sales team, you need to understand and leverage best practice strategies to succeed. Admittedly, that can be a bit complicated and confusing—one of the reasons it's smart to partner with businesses that have deep experience in content creation and delivery.