Content Marketing Can Jumpstart the Sales Process with Awareness, Leads and Engagement
Content marketing is critical for a successful sales team because it introduces brands, opens doors and paves the way to conversations that can lead to sales. Farther along in the sales process, content marketing can help to educate prospects and even position sales people as trusted subject matter experts.
And, sales teams are starting to ask their marketing departments for content they can share with potential buyers.. According to researchers, content marketing will be used for sales by 75% of B2B organizations in 2015. Compare that number to last year, when only 45% of sales teams were using content marketing.
Content marketing gets the sales ball rolling Marketing and sales sometimes seem like two different fields with two different agendas, and sales teams often feel like marketing just throws leads over the cubicle wall willy nilly without really qualifying them. Content marketing can help to improve that situation. How? It can get the sales ball rolling.
According to the report on B2B marketing published this past fall by the Content Marketing Institute, the top three goals for content marketers in 2015 are:
- Brand awareness (cited as important or very important by 84% of respondents)
- Lead generation (cited as important or very important by 83% of respondents)
- Engagement (cited as important or very important by 81% of respondents)
If you think about it, those are actually the first three consecutive steps in the sales cycle: The prospect becomes aware of the brand. The prospect becomes a lead. The prospect becomes engaged with the brand. If content marketing can help to get potential customers this far along the pipeline, sales teams can take them the rest of the way, fairly confident that the leads are good, qualified leads by this point.
Increasing brand awareness Brand awareness has ranked at the top of the list of content marketers’ most important goals over the last five years, according to the CMI. Since it is the first step in the sales cycle, that only makes sense. One can’t buy from a brand one hasn’t heard of, after all. Introducing brands to prospects and making them aware of the brand promise is a critical first step that content marketing can accomplish.
Lead generation Once prospects are aware of a brand, they will be interested in the information the brand is offering in order to learn more. In the B2B world, where purchases tend to involve more money than in the B2C world, and buying decisions tend to be made by committee, offering information that further educates a prospect about a brand, product or service is critical. Offering that information is also an opportunity to generate a lead by gating the content. Once they’ve taken that step and handed over their contact information in exchange for content, they have essentially raised their hand to say “yes, I am interested!”
Engagement After the brand awareness and lead generation, a deepening engagement is the hoped-for next step in the sales cycle, and content marketing can play a crucial role at this stage too. Prospects can become engaged with a brand when they liked what they saw the first time and they want to know more. This might happen in follow-up to a download of a whitepaper, for example, which they found useful, meaning they are receptive to a webinar on the same topic. Or it could be the content convinced them they should follow a brand on Twitter or LinkedIn, and as other content assets are made available via those channels, they download them as well.
The continued role of content marketing Beyond these initial three stages, content marketing can also play a role in continuing to educate prospects, especially when they are making complicated buying decisions or they need to share information with others such as senior management or the IT department so others can weigh in on the decision of whether to purchase or not.
In fact, studies show that B2B prospects these days are educating themselves, so that they come into the sales pipeline farther along than they used to. In the old days of sales, they would be contacted initially by a cold call and would rely on sales people to supply information that the sales people deemed relevant. Now they access that information on their own, and they are already somewhat knowledgeable about brands, products and services when they have that initial conversation with a sales person. This also can makes sales easier, because the sales person doesn’t need to spend the time doing the initial education.
For the best content, include sales in the process We’ve all heard about the disconnect between sales and marketing. Content marketing can help you bridge that gap, if you make sure salespeople are at the table and have a say in the content created. They are, after all, the ones on the front lines. They are the ones who field the questions from the prospects and customers on a daily basis. They know what information is requested and needed. And they probably have valuable input that will ensure the content assets created will be useful…and used. That said, marketing also needs to make sure the sales team is aware of the content being pushed out as well as the content available to them to use. Bringing the sales team to the table from the start can help make that happen.