The creation and use of content marketing is key to getting social selling activities right. In fact content marketing is now powering most selling and sales activity as it is the smoothest route to build up a relationship with prospects or buyers. It also gently reinforces a brand without over ally interrupting people with sales messages. In today’s digital aware environment, brochure selling is a big turn-off and no longer cuts it with buyers.
The sales professional today knows that selling is now about genuine, beneficial interaction with existing and potential customers which builds trust over time. Content sharing also has the dual effect of building brand awareness, a business may never actually sell anything directly over social media but they will generate awareness.
What content is shared will impact the results.
To really make social selling work, the target audience has to be interested in what the sales person has to say and, ultimately, the customer believe in what they are saying.
“Creating content your potential prospects will find useful or enjoyable is key to success”.
Quality, insightful and useful content brings a brand to life, giving the business a personality and allowing it (if they work hard enough) to eventually become an industry thought leader. Content can also help a business differentiate them from the competition. .
As content marketing plays such a central role in enabling social selling activity, here are some tips to help make a business brand stand out from the crowd:
What does a business need to consider when developing a content marketing plan?
There is no “magic wand or instant success formula” to creating effective and impactful content as each buyer grouping and seller is unique, each with its own buyers journey and value proposition. While it is helpful to review other content marketing strategies and competitor approaches by doing some internet searches, ultimately any company’s content marketing plan needs to be tailored to its customers and market needs. However any content plan should include the sales team sharing information that is of interest to their target audience (of which a portion should be nothing to do with their brand). Information worth sharing might include market insights, industry news, analyst reports or independent market research.
They say people buy from people, and in the social network world people follow people who share things that enlighten them or educate them. Also a business should consider social selling training so sales people develop their own style and not be a channel to spew out branded sales updates.
A good starting point is maybe blogging about observations or customer opinions about the industry in which a business operates which can also be a handy means of kick-starting some social conversations. “Maybe research shows some validated trends that all companies or customers are embracing. Then create a nice content piece about it and to add in your observations maybe with some independent quotes.
There is always LinkedIn group discussions, Twitter conversations or any other forums in which the target audience can be found to share insights. But don’t be a bull in a china shop, marketing and sales people need to listen and understand what is going on in the social world for their customers in order to get to grips with the relevant topics to engage on.
The marketing department should ensure that everyone involved in social selling has access to pertinent content as and when they need it or as part of a schedule, this content can be developed internally, aggregated from social media or taken from approved third party sources.
The content marketing strategy needs planning, production schedule, promotion plan and a means to measure the effectiveness of the activity
- A business needs to define and set content marketing aims plus ensure they support business objectives.
- To identify the target audience and gather as much information about them to understand their characteristics and interests via social media.
- Clearly define what kind of content will help achieve the business goals.
- Develop a content marketing execution plan. Including a weekly or monthly content calendar so that the sales teams understand what content and marketing campaigns are in the pipeline.
Content marketing is about sales and marketing combining in order to share with customers the right content at the right time.”
Final suggestion on this tip is for sales and marketing teams to hold a content meeting each month to decide which segments or messaging they will focus on and then agree what content is necessary to create or source.
How businesses can ensures it exploits its content plan effectively
The first step is social media training for all in sales to ensure they maximize the content that will be made available to them. This social selling training should cover how to/not to use the various social media platforms, what the company’s social guidelines are to training on tone of voice and language on social media.
Business needs to make it easy for sales people to interact with marketing in order to understand what content topics are working and which are not, then repeat the things that do deliver results (make sure results is defined to all) and stop any content production to those topics not delivering. In this regard monitor and report on the analytics whether it is leads generated, white paper downloads or social followers etc. Monitoring the analytics from social activity in detail, and drawing up a reporting pack will help the business stakeholders what content drives what activity plus what the target audience has read.
Other basic marketing activities such as monitoring click on URLs, content/blog page views can provide a business with useful data to shape the content marketing plan accordingly and tweak where necessary.
A crucial element in content success is ensuring that the business (sales and marketing) have a daily plan to actively engage in social conversations. This means taking the time to impart value-add comments, liking or re-sharing content with less emphasis on broadcasting sales messages.
“Buyers want to see that sales people are knowledgeable in their own right, not just conduits for branded marketing campaigns.”
Strike a balance so the target audience do not get bombarded with too much content or feel like they are being stalked. Mix up different types of content, whether is it informational, infographics, video, white papers, case studies or images to make the social interactions more meaningful.
The aim is to share quality content that people enjoy reading, also in social selling sales people need to come across as being unbiased so providing impartial advice works really well.”
Social selling is NOT plastering half-price offers on social media. A business needs to be engaging and give audience food for thought.
What are the key challenges a business is likely to experience?
Delivering real business results using content marketing combined with social selling can be tricky and which some companies struggles with date due to a number of factors.
Content Quality! It can be challenging to create really engaging content that cuts through the huge amount of social chatter. The volume of content and information sharing on the social network is huge so it requires any content marketing campaign to be “targeted and relevant” to a clearly defined audience.
Don’t force it. Too many companies try to push the sales teams and people to become a brand advocates with little choice. Start by educating and tapping into the people are really interested in social media where their passion can lead to other team members getting involved. Forcing people to update their LinkedIn profile or Twitter account every hour can lead to social fatigue. Think Smarketing. Where sales and marketing work together to plan and put in place goals that everyone will contribute to. Both teams and departments working in unison can the difference between success and failure in running content marketing campaigns. “If either sales or marketing try to push out this activity alone, it probably will not work. Avoid headless activity where people detach themselves from the brand values and focus on their own goals which can be wasteful. Clearly defined goals, objectives and constant feedback is what makes content marketing powering social selling successful.