7 Ways to Get Your Content to Produce Sales Leads – Now

If your content marketing plan is producing a steady flow of sales leads, then save yourself some time and don’t bother reading this article. Every marketing article I read tells me how much business has fallen in love with content marketing and why not. I know from experience that whether selling to consumers or business the challenge (for both marketing and sales) is to get content to produce sales leads and not just brand awareness. However the reality is that today’s social media channels are being bombarded with content (some great, some good and lots of crap) on a daily basis.

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So how much content is created every day?

Well there are over 2 million blog posts written and posted every single day or some 84,000 every hour. On Facebook, users like over 4 million posts EVERY minute. Over 16 million tweets happen each hour. Google handles over 100 Billion searches a month. Instagram has over 100 million like per hour. Vine has over 60 million videos being played on the platform every hour. Tinder users swipe over 35 million matches per hour (is there anyone working!!!)

I know that these numbers seem daunting but when you look at the audience numbers, namely the internet has over 2.3 Billion active social media users and over 1 million new MOBILE social media users are added every day, then the possibilities to use quality content to create awareness for your business become tempting.

If you are really serious about standing out from the 2 million blog posts published every day, here is a few things I suggest you need to start doing to cut through the clutter.

First things first, the top 3 content marketing tactics are blog articles (65%); social media sharing (64%); and publishing case studies (64%

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How can you cut through the noise? The question every content marketing company tries to answer.

Well in my opinion it all boils down to “likeability”, that is how much a post or piece of content is “likeable”?  In both the B2B and B2C (but especially content shared by sales people in B2B sales), the content being shared needs to have social reach, be liked and valued by the target prospects. The likeability of any content type can be increased by crafting assets using the best practices for each individual social network (media, language, tone, topic, length, etc) matched to a buyer persona or ideal customer profile. Right Profile – Right Content – Right Context and Right Timing! This does require planning between sales and marketing to know when prospects/target audience displays the need for specific content plus the ability to deliver that content to the prospect at the optimal time for action via the right social channel.

When it comes to social selling, sales people are publishing to be seen, create awareness and get expression of consideration to get buyers into the sales process. With the amount of content listed above, the challenge is how to stand out and turn social content into quality sales leads?

A formula for Content Likeability could be

Targeted Content + Situational Context + Buyer Stage + Timing

For agreement sake, let’s say we agree that the goal is to cut through the content crap and build our sales pipeline. This means we only care about the attention of a very small subset the 3.2 billion – those that match out buyer persona. This requires having content that is optimised for social media and that is adding value specifically to your ideal customer profile/buyer persona. Content that is role based, industry based and funnel stage based is a great way to organise content you intend to share – and share it you must.

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The 7 Point Plan to Improve Leads from your Content.

  1. Write better titles (better than this one!!)

SEO optimised titles do have an important part to play but mix it up. Here are some interesting statistics “On average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest.” The better the headline, the better your odds of beating the averages and getting what you’ve written read by a larger percentage of people.

The Four U’s approach to writing headlines:

Be USEFUL to the reader,

Provide him with a sense of URGENCY,

Convey the idea that the main benefit is somehow UNIQUE; and

Do all of the above in an ULTRA-SPECIFIC way.

  1. Use your voice (write in the first person and bring some personality)

People don’t want to read vanilla flavoured articles from a corporate robot; you have a personality, use it. Boring corporate articles which have no value or real purpose other than to fulfil some content plan are a waste of time.  Dilbert has written better commentary on business that the vast majority of so called “business guru’s”. Writing in your own unique voice is as easy as writing the way you speak. It actually requires passion and confidence more than skill. Use references and data to support your opinion. But please do have opinions and insights to share regardless of right or wrong. As Oscar Wilde wrote “the only thing worse than being talked about is NOT being talked about. Get people talking about your views and opinions!!

  1. Write longer articles

Damn I hear you shout. Yes I know longer articles are harder (and head wrecking). Gone are the days of 150,300 or 500 word pieces. Let me tell you, if you write content to produce results, you learn very quickly that you can’t afford to spend months or years dreaming up a daring new approach for every 2000 word article you write. No one I know has that kind of discipline. The path to success is to write often which means quickly, and the only way to do that is to take a page from the playbook of people like Shakespeare, Jefferson, and Wilde – copying from others not because you lack genius, but because true genius is clothed in the ideas of others.

There is sixteen times more content published with less than 1000 words than there is with content of 2000 words plus. As a motivator you might like to know that Google equates longer content with higher value, meaning better rankings and more traffic. Don’t believe me? Google it or try some keyword terms to see the results returned.

writing-fun

  1. Put some sparkle on it

If you are 2 out of the 10 people who is actually reading this article (congrats, thanks and keep going) you will appreciate you need some visual stimulation (easy now) to interest your mind and eyes as you read. Using 2 or ideally more visually interesting elements (pictures, infographics, video etc) in your article increases the chance of getting it shared. Start by creating lovely header images , apart from lots of high quality, low cost stock photography there is loads of free images around the web (borrow not steal and don’t infringe on anyone’s copyright or IP). Places like Canva, Piktochart, Pablo by Buffer are great for creating graphics. Video content if you have some is becoming increasingly important but some great video content on YouTube you could use to engage or entertain the reader. So every few paragraphs or so, insert some imagery that adds value to the article, maybe some data or quotes etc.

  1. Stick to your plan

I know that as you have read this far, you are one of those people who does have a content marketing plan, right? Because none of us would go on a journey without a route plan and destination in mind or would we? Well, if you don’t have a plan, ignore points 1 to 4 and start here. Who is your audience, what is their buyers journey, what stages do they go through, what content does your competition publish, how often will you publish, who will write the articles, what are the themes and topics, who will share, when and how often. What results do you expect in 3, 6 or 12 months so you can measure success? Draw up the content plan, week by week, what content is aimed at which customer profile and at what stage in the buyer journey will this content appeal to them.

  1. Promote like crazy

Here comes the grunt work. Publish and readers will flock to read it just doesn’t work. Now that your fingers are tired from hours of writing 1000+ word articles, you sit back and admire the sheer feeling of seeing your work there, for everyone to read and share across the social networks.  Pause. Now you need to spend as long if not longer promoting, linking and sharing the article. Try to get your article under the eyes of influencers, share on LinkedIn groups, Facebook, Twitter while link build it to site likes Bizsugar, Soup, Google+, Plurk, Hacker news and loads of industry specific forums.  It is a thankless task, even boring but it pays off. Learn to live with it and set aside a few hours to promote each and every article you publish.

  1. Gather data

If you have a content plan, then you’ll need data to check what is and what is not working. Not to mention results against targets you have set. What content is getting read, shared, liked and by whom. What content delivered what leads as part of a social selling strategy are all questions needing an answer. Gathering data from your library of published assets and using it to improve your content plan can be the difference between successful and not-so successful blogs. The best social marketing pros (and their writers) know what works and they churn out more of it day in, day out.

 Final Words on Content Marketing

I’m not going to bullshit you; you have read this far so you are owed some honesty. Out there on the social networks, there is a war for attention from the 2.3 Billion social media users (or your portion of that). While the internet has levelled the playing field for both buyer and seller, the hard facts are you have only a few seconds if that to make an impact. Creating content takes effort and resources, promoting it take effort and time, then add in the fact that we cannot afford to be vanilla, dull, stale, or boring. To turn visitors into readers, readers into leads, and leads to prospects and prospects into customers, your business, my business needs to produce content that stands out. It can be done but more strategic than that, it needs to be done as it is what your buyers want.  Do you have a choice, sure but for the foreseeable future that old chestnut of content is king has never sounded truer.  Social media marketing powered by content marketing and driven by social selling is a potent formula. Write well my friend.

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
Anton Chekhov

A Guide to Content Marketing for Start-ups

How can content marketing help satisfy a start-ups customer acquisition and quest for growth. Old sales tactics are declining and the push sales cycle can mean a new business is out of runway long before their business gets off the ground with revenue. The rapid change in buyer behaviour for both B2B and B2C means an unforgiving economic climate in which a start-up has to function. Thankfully, the meteoric rise of inbound marketing together with social selling has added a suite of new tools to the business sales and marketing toolkit.

While the sales and marketing field have been levelled they are also becoming more complex as buyers seek out useful and valuable vendors via quality content as they self educate like never before. So how can a start-up business win with content marketing and what does it stand to gain from it?

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It begins with a plan

To develop a content marketing strategy, we must first understand the role of content in attracting the buyer in the digital economy. As buyers self educate online in both B2C and B2B markets they consume content as part of the buying journey. When we refer to “Content” we are referring to whitepapers, video, infographics, images, press releases, newsletters, help guides right through to thought leadership articles. Also, focus content themes and topics that match the interest of your “Ideal Customer Profiles” or “Buyer Personas”. When it comes to content curation do not consider content to be anything you find funny or amusing as you dive into the sea of digital content being published about your industry. Instead, think of content that adds value to customer or buyers journey, information that is useful and benefits the reader in some way. Start-ups who remember that content is bait and the better the content, the better the fish will have taken a big step towards getting their business moving forward. So ask yourself, “Who is your customer?” “What is their need?” and “How will you deliver on their need”. Now you can start to assemble a content marketing plan.

The first step as mentioned above is to define your target audience (ideal customer profile/buyer persona) in terms of Firmographics, demographics, age, occupation, habits, etc. Then, the start-up needs to plan who and from where will they create and source a steady stream of content for publishing. Next it is time to research what is their favourite social media platforms. This information allows us to define clear goals and social KPI’s. These may cover items such as content views, content downloads, traffic, blog visitors, total traffic, social reach and social engagement. Now the start-up can proceed with moving their plans from the drawing board into social media reality.

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Put the start-up on the social media stage

We know from research that over 75% of B2B buyers seek business information online. Over 90% of consumers now consume content prior to making an online purchase. So it is no surprise to know that one of the greatest benefits of content marketing is increasing the exposure to potential customers whether it is locally, nationally or globally. That is why building a social brand and social reach through content is closely tied to the process of developing closer relations with the target audience, and getting to know each other. The ultimate goal of any content plan is to inform, educate, engage, inspire, and spark attention. This is no easy task as the work of attracting buyer’s attention has fierce competition. The best shot for a new business is to become a valuable information source with real insights and fresh, challenging points of view. Content blindness or overload can be avoided if the start-up can separate itself from the competition and rise above the noise generated by vanilla flavoured content.

Also it is important to avoid the pitfalls that go with content marketing. Don’t be tempted to write about product superiority and service excellence without social proof which may include influencer opinions or valid customer reviews. Do not overlook the value of visual content and videos. A whooping eight seven percent of the top posts on Facebook have pictures included, while it is thirty five percent on Twitter.

Another critical point is to convey the businesses personality and social purpose. Content should reflect the business culture and be used to plant seeds with targeted buyers on your beliefs and philosophy around serving customers. Finally, create a content sharing schedule so that the selected content must is posted regularly. Creating a calendar is paramount, as this enables start-ups to plan themes and topics to match buyer interests while scheduling posts ahead of time.

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A content publishing engine room

Content creation falls into two main categories, “First click content” and “Second click content”. First click content is designed around the search engine optimisation (SEO) and driving traffic. It is heavily keyword focused with “Tips” “Guides” and “How to” type content the best themes to ensure sharing and thus getting the content at the forefront of search engine results page (SERP). Using content to build inbound links is one of the best marketing strategies there is, so ensure your content publishing engine knows what keywords to target.

Remember Google carefully monitors the content surrounding the anchor link (title, topic, theme, keywords) so it is vital that the quality of the content has to be top-drawer when doing link building. Other aspects of a content publishing plan are to monitor industry trends and new relevant keywords as to develop content or visuals. Identifying these elements can boost a business’s search ranking and drive more traffic.

While content marketing can be an inexpensive, yet highly effective lead generation method to reach ideal customer profiles, it does require investment in the production of the assets to be published. Create a content publishing engine that will help your start-up to attain a position of industry leader over a period of months. Sometimes if not often start-ups have little room for manoeuvre and must operate on a shoestring budget. So to make every Euro count, content marketing can have both short tailed and long tailed benefits by aligning all social media marketing to target buyers supported by quality, relevant content.

The runway is shorter than you think

A sense of paranoid can be healthy when launching a new business; one can live or die by their ability to quickly identify real wants and needs of buyers. The runway to getting the start-up of the ground maybe shorter than you think with more effort than you planned. This requires social selling with content, social media marketing, social reach and social engagement. To pull this off, the business must make the best use of content marketing strategies. Relevant, regular, appropriately themed quality content that engages the target audience to find you useful and valuable is the only way to make a name for the business quickly. If content is king, then badly written, irrelevant or copied articles, have little chance of becoming royalty. Always refer to the plan and only produce content that is tailored to the needs of the customers. It is about using content to be seen, be found, be useful and be valuable in the eyes and minds of buyers so the start-up can generate revenue sooner rather than later.

Connecting Content Marketing to Sales

How to use content marketing for improved sales enablement is a big discussion point among sales and marketing leaders. Most B2B companies rely on selling by direct sales teams to generate a large percentage of their revenues. For these companies, improving sales performance is a critical business objective, and sales enablement alongside the use of social media is seen as the best method for delivering company revenue goals.

When executed correctly, sales enablement has the involvement of both marketing and sales. Content marketing resources such as research articles, whitepapers, e-books, testimonials, video content and case studies plays a vital role in sales enablement. The marketing department are the ones usually tasked with creating the content assets.

sales-marketing-divided

Does your sales team understand your content strategy?

Research shows there can be a mismatch between the content that marketing produces and the content the sales people need to progress their sales opportunities. The findings included that:

  • Only fifty four percent of sales people and sixty five percent of sales managers understand their company’s content marketing strategy.
  • While 65 percent of sales people and seventy four percent of sales managers say the content their company publishes is valuable to their customers.
  • However, a full fifty two percent of sales people and forty three percent of managers say the content their company publishes helps improve sales effectiveness.

The results show that nearly 50% of sales people do not understand the content strategy. So what is the issue?

b2b-buyers-decision

Lack of Smarketing!! As sales and marketing are not aligned on how a buyer buys. They probably have not mapped out the buyer’s journey together leading to disconnects between the two teams. In fact Forrester reported that one-third of B2B marketing leaders acknowledge that their biggest problem is figuring out how to serve up appropriate content to specific buyers when the time is right.

In your business do sales and marketing define the buyer’s journey differently? Marketing may have segmented the buyer’s journey into 5 or 6 stages.

.Apart from some buying signals on social media (some social selling tools are starting to monitor early stage indicators of buyers journey), most companies see the buyer when they are about to exit the awareness stage and enter the consideration stage. At this point the buyer starts to identify the right people with the answers on how to solve their challenges. They are actively looking for solutions and are self educating by accessing content to help make informed decisions. They are socially active on the social media networks, reading articles, downloading reports, looking for research and interacting with different forms of content to shape their next movement in the buying process.

Social selling engagement and marketing technology can assist a business with this stage to understand and track buyers who are downloading and interacting with your content.

Now buyers move to engage with vendor partners, they will subtly seek out relationships with a select few, ones that can help solve the problems the buyer has identified as being critical.

According to IDC, 75% of B2B buyers use social media to research vendors. The majority of buyers are researching online where they should find you (as a sales individual who they value) and most likely your competitors. The research shows they are looking at product features, reviews, testimonials, pricing and company information. – Source: IDC’s Social Buying Meets Social Selling: How Trusted Networks Improve the Purchase Experience

The buyer has most likely now consumed enough content and the content produced from the companies which have proved they can provide the solutions to the challenges they face.

At the final stage, the buyer will choose a vendor as their preference with maybe one other as backup. If any business is waiting until the vendor engagement stage (which marketing may own up to now) then opportunities are being missed. Forrester has shown that 74% of B2B buyers conduct more than half of their research online before talking to a salesperson. If the content marketing strategy and sales enablement (social selling as an example) do not create value early enough and help guide the buyers journey then potential new customers are being missed.

You can bet that if the sales force feels disconnected from the marketing team, it also goes the other way. The marketing department can be frustrated that the sales teams are not sharing enough content. Maybe the reason is that marketing and sales have not had the conversations to figure out what type of content the buyers respond to at certain points of engagement. Marketing can only produce content to support the revenue goals if they understand the buyer’s journey.

Sales and Marketing Alignment is the solution

Create a revenue team, where sales and marketing come together and developed a unified version of the buyer’s’ journey. Segment the content tactics to mirror your sales pipeline and buyer’s journey. ACD content marketing focuses the type of content created to match the three stages in customer acquisition. These are Awareness, Consideration and Decision.

Awareness content: This is mapped to the buyers why (Why do I have a problem?). This type of content is aimed at top of the funnel where the prospect acknowledges that there is a potential problem that needs a solution.

Consideration content: This reflects the buyers how (How should I solve this?)  Where by consuming more information they have identified what that problem is and who could maybe solve it.

Decision content: Getting the buyer to identify the “who.”(Who has proven they could solve this) They have defined their ideal solution strategy and who they will engage with based on relevancy of data they have accessed.

By mapping the ACD content strategy on the buyers “why” and the “how” will give the sales team earlier opportunities to engage with prospects.

By aligning sales and marketing as a revenue team they can work together to create content that is relevant to buyers to match what stage they are at. The power in connecting content marketing and marketing to sales will create powerful assets that the buyer truly values.

B2B Sales Techniques for a Digital World

The buyer’s journey is changing sales models and how B2B sales teams sell. Sales 2.0 as a sales technique has been around nearly ten years now but still many companies struggle to embrace it. If you are in B2B sales then Forester projects that over the next four years, 1 million B2B sales people will be replaced by self-service e-commerce. Those that want to have a long term career in sales will have to up-skill and move away from transactional selling while companies will have to embrace a sales model along with sales processes that adds value to the buyer’s journey.

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One Million US B2B Salespeople Will Lose Their Jobs to Self-Service e-commerce by 2020

The reality is (and numerous research proves it) that increasingly B2B buyers prefer to research solutions online plus then conclude the cycle by buying the products and services via the web. How many companies still insist buyers to engage with their sales teams as part of the buying process? Maybe it’s time for sales leaders to transform the historical sales models, one which facilitates a highly social, seamless buying environment where maybe the website and not the sales teams are at the heart of how companies procure and sell.

So are B2B sales dying? Absolutely not but it does mean we have to recalibrate our view of the sales process and what it means to be a sales professional. The sales funnel is no longer being calibrated and decided by sales as the buyers decides where they are in the process. The good news is that a company’s potential customer base is bigger than ever, thanks to social media, the web and accessibility of communication paths to buyers.

Sales needs to rethink where and how to add value in the buying process, when and with what should sales people engage with the buyer so it improves the buyers journey are critical questions coming down the line. The old sales methodologies of marketing bringing in leads for the sales funnel where sales would then commence the process to qualify prospects based on some internal criteria to narrow down the focus to the most likely to convert to customers is disappearing.

It just does not work like that any more. Buyers are not travelling a journey prescribed in some sales manual or CRM system; they are taking their own journey and leaving sales models in the rear view mirror. But the key message for sales here is NOT about catching up (more sales training anyone) with the buyer’s journey but where along the road can we add value. It is about the buyer needing information, resources, guidance, advice and help depending where they are on the journey,

Below are some suggestions on what it will take to be successful in sales for the road ahead and to add value to the buyer in their journey

b2b-buyers journey

CONTENT TIMING IS VITAL AS BUYERS MOVE ALONG THE ROAD.

According to the Content Marketing Institute, 80% of decision makers prefer to get company information in a series of articles versus advertisements

A recent report from Forrester showed that over 33% of B2B marketers acknowledge that their biggest problem is figuring out how to deliver relevant content to specific buyers when the time is right. I recently wrote about “How to Use Content Marketing the ACD way” which may be worth reading.

IF OVER 66% OF THE BUYER’S JOURNEY IS DIGITAL, MAKE SURE YOU ARE WELL ROAD SIGNED.

If you read up on new sales methodologies or social selling, you have probably read that 67% of the buyer’s journey happens before sales ever get involved. Well this does not have to come true. Yes buyers are doing research online before contacting sales, so smart sales teams should position themselves as helpful signs or stopping of points along the way. Social selling, credible social presence, inviting and quality (even personalised) content will help flag you to buyer’s as they travel in search of solutions.

BUYERS TRUST OTHER TRAVELLERS ALONG THE JOURNEY, SO SALES CANNOT BE STRANGERS HITCHING A LIFT AT THE SIDE OF THE ROAD.

Research shows that only approx. nine percent of B2B buyers trust vendor content especially when it comes to data and claims. So they look for independent signs and also they trust information that comes from people they trust: valued social influencers, social network connections, ex-colleagues and friends. Sales has to work hard to get trust by offering valued contributions, staying in touch with existing buyers and sharing information that helps even when it’s not your own. Avoid the big neon signs about special offers, free coffee for everyone and buy today. Seek first to understand (where is the buyer on the journey) and then let the buyer be understood (what do they expect). A socially engaged sales mentality is a must.

INVITING THE BUYER IN WITH GENUINE HOSPITALITY WILL BE THE MOST PRODUCTIVE.

This is not an outbound V inbound argument, outbound sales will always have a place, it’s just about deciding where to place it! Day was when only cold calling and mass broadcasting was the only way for companies to talk to buyers. Sales 2.0 along with social media have flipped this on its head. In an Aberdeen Group report, they found that on average, the most successful sales firms got sixty percent of marketing leads from outbound marketing, while forty percent came through inbound efforts. However the inbound leads converted at a higher rate. The lesson here is these firms used content and not sales pitches to invite the buyer in regardless of whether outbound or inbound. Be a trusted, helpful resource to the buyer along the journey and not interrupting them is the way to get the attention of buyers.

buyer-stages

SALES AND MARKETING ALIGNMENT

Finally, one last thought. On the buyer’s journey, sales, marketing and customer service are seen as a single entity. The term “Smarketing” has been thrown into the mix as a means to convey that sales, marketing and customer service have to collaborate more closely. All departments working as one will create a deeper understanding of the journey a customer takes to engage with your company.

In the socially connected, social media business world, everything moves at a faster pace and this is driven by the buyer. Any business that hopes to get the attention of the traffic on buyers road then they must understand where the potential buyers are coming from, what they demand along the way, and be wherever they need you to be with the right service.

How to Use Content Marketing the ACD way.

Many companies struggle in how to use content marketing to drive their sales or business upwards. No big surprise as today’s buyer is more educated and savvy than ever. Smart marketing leaders know that traditional marketing methods are becoming less and less effective by the day, so turning to social media and content marketing as a means to drive traffic and leads makes sense . In fact social media/online advertising will overtake traditional advertising this year, posing opportunities and challenges for many companies.

But social media and content marketing is not the same thing. Yes they do operate hand in glove with each other however one is focused on “consumption” while the other is based on “participation”.  The goal of content is audience consumption, while social media is all about audience participation.

content-marketing-how-to-guide

According to the Content Marketing Institute, 80% of decision makers prefer to get company information in a series of articles versus advertisements.

So think of content as a beautifully prepared meal that people want to consume, social media as the room where they sit talking about the lovely meal they just have eaten and social networking is how you make people aware of your food in the first place.  They key to using content marketing is to create different meals aka content themes (chicken dinners become boring after a while) to keep people coming back for more. The same way we create different meals for different times of the day or weather, we also need to vary our content according to the different stages our prospective buyers are at.

I call this

ACD Content Marketing   

I believe your content tactics should mirror both your company stage of development and your sales pipeline. ACD content marketing focuses the type of content created to match the three stages in customer acquisition. These are Awareness, Consideration and Decision.

Awareness Content

Awareness content is heavily SEO focused, a new business or one targeting a set of keywords for Google traffic will create allot of this type of content. It is aimed at potential buyers whom have no previous awareness or interaction with your business. The goal here is using keyworded content to get searched and seen by as many people as possible. Themes for awareness content include such titles as – how to, tips on, a guide to etc.

Awareness Content is served up on:

  • Social Media Sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Instagram, YouTube etc.
  • Posted on Blogs – Medium, WordPress, LinkedIn Pulse and Blogger.
  • Published to your own Website and Landing Pages
  • As presentations on Slideshare or Learnist.
  • Visuals (including Infographics) on Visual.ly or Imgur.
  • SEO link building to places like Scoop.it, Quora, Pearltrees.

This type of content is usually on-going as a business targets new keywords or sets of customers. It is important to capture their interest via newsletter or update sign-ups. Then you can now move to creating “consideration content” or content that is focused on getting customers to select you as a vendor.

Consideration Content

As you build traffic, repeat visitors, newsletter subscriptions and social network connections a business should start to blend in consideration type content into their content strategy. This is where you use content to nurture (lead nurturing) prospective customers.

The goal is to create content that will “nurturing the customer” meaning informing them on why/how your product or solutions will solve their problems. At the beginning consideration and awareness content can often be have similar traits as in keyword focused, but try to leave the SEO to aside as you progress, switching the focus on going deeper with informative and insightful content. The content is still served up on all the channels lists in the previous section plus emailed to your subscriber base.

Consideration Content should include:

  • Whitepapers
  • Research articles
  • Success Stories
  • Case Studies
  • Valid and Verifiable Customer Testimonials
  • Interviews (text and video)
  • Webinars
  • Sharing other forms of proof (reviews/awards/wins)

Decision Content

Decision content is offered to your qualified leads (sales and marketing working together) from lead nurturing them during the consideration phase. This content should be personalised, specific and introduced at the right time in the sales process. I suggest business splits decision content into “pre-close” and “post-close”. Pre-close content can be vital to closing a sale so should be planned out carefully.

Types of Pre-close Content may include:

  • Onsite or Virtual Product Demonstrations
  • Existing customer reference with detailed implementation
  • Personalised Proposal
  • Pricing Documents
  • ROI Presentations using existing customer cases

Lastly, there is the “post-close content”, this can include surveys, up-selling and cross selling content and referral requests.

Ensure you create content to welcome new customers and solicit feedback as part of your content arsenal. Also make sure to produce content templates that thank them for their purchase. Also post-close content should include sharing information on your newest products and upgrades.

acd-content-marketing

Wrapping it All

The ACD marketing method has other benefits, used correctly it can be a superb way to gather valuable insights. Content marketing is the marketing of the here and now plus the future. It will only develop in its sophistication and personalisation as the social media networks become central to sales and customer interactions. Content is the always on, 24/7 plug-in to the internet world, always there guiding your potential customers even when you are asleep. The key to to create attractive and appealing content that will be consumed by the reader that matches where they are in your sales pipeline.

The Bitter Business can help create or work with your social media marketing or content marketing strategy, helping you to understand what type of content works and which aspect of your content creation needs to be improved to deliver more traffic, more leads and more customers.

Content marketing is powering social selling

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.

social-selling-guide

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.

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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.

BENEFITS OF SOCIAL MEDIA IN BUSINESS AND SALES

“What are the benefits to social marketing media to business or sales?” This was a question I got asked recently at a presentation I gave.

What still surprises me is the amount of senior managers, business owners and even those involved in sales that are still to be convinced how social media can impact their business sales results. During my career I have nearly (not always) been a fan of technology and tools that help create a competitive advantage to a business in the selling process which is why I believe social media will change the face of sales forever.

Quite simply, social media has to be a baked in component of any business or sales strategy.

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Research into the sales process has shown that the use of social media has a significant positive effect, in fact sales people that use social media to interact and share information, gain as much as 78% greater sales than sales people not using social media. Now what impact would these numbers have on your business? Proof that social media matters in sales and is playing an increasingly bigger role.

So here are five good reasons why every sales person, manager and business owner should implement a well planned out social media strategy.

SOCIAL MEDIA IS A 24/7 SALES CHAMPION.

Social media will work for your business 24/7. Business never stops and neither does promoting your company to potential customers. Sales people can work maybe 7, 8 or 10 hours but only social media can work 24/7 sharing information, reaching potential buyers and driving awareness for your business. Social media is now the go to channel to check out a business, to source referrals, to see how engaged a business is and for a buyer to evaluate what vendors are worth considering. Today most business is global and time zones are irrelevant to buyers who are seeking information or considering a purchase. A deal or a buyer waits for no one regardless of how many hours a sales person works. This is where social media comes in. With social media, a business or sales person can remain engaged and active that bridges both time zones and continents.

Also well thought out sales strategies make use of social media to create and maintain professional profiles, these act as online business cards providing information and conveying knowledge, experience and expertise. The combination of well crafted social media profiles with quality content (articles, white papers, thought leadership and research papers) gives any prospective buyer the information needed to place the sales person or business on their radar for follow up or even to engage in the sales process.

SOCIAL MEDIA BUILDS CREDIBILITY.

Years ago small companies or new start ups found it hard to build business credibility against large companies with huge advertising and marketing budgets. The Internet and social media has changed this. Social sharing of articles, recommendations and the ability to freely publish information has “democratised” the exposure of companies on a global scale. Social media acts like one big resume or CV for a business.  As any buyer or sales manager will tell you, nearly every sales or business meeting is preceded by or followed by visiting LinkedIn, Twitter and Google to look for business credibility.  Switched on buyers know that social networks will throw up lots of data on a business, from looking at LinkedIn for profiles, to Twitter for activity and Google for company information or validate business credentials , they use social media to consider or dismiss a vendor long before ever sealing a deal.

It is vital that every business and every person in the business that could influence a buyer’s decision to maintain not only their social media profiles but also a presence that conveys the message any buyer would like to see. Social media profiles whether personal or professional should be impressive and appropriate. They not only validate the sales persons credibility but the whole business, while acting as a conduit to draw the prospect closer to doing business.

BUYERS ARE IN THE DRIVING SEAT.

With so much accessible and static information shared on the social networks, sellers are no longer in control as buyers have changed their journey in how they buy. Now any buyer can do extensive research quite easily prior to making a purchase whether B2B or consumers, in fact the “average consumer views more than 10 pieces of content online prior to making a purchase”.

Social media has empowered buyers so they no longer have to rely on the information provided by sellers. It does not matter if the transaction is business-to-consumer or business-to-business; buyers are doing their homework by visiting social media sites and accessing content to support buying decisions.

Business owners and sales team must make themselves easy to find by potential buyers using inbound and content marketing tactics if they are to stand a chance at scaling the business. A story from the 1950’s comes to mind when a bank robber named Willie Sutton was once asked why he robbed so many banks. His answer: it’s where the money is! Now every business leader and serious sales person should ask themselves this question. Why focus on social media? The answer: It’s where the buyers are!

SHARING IS CARING.

Every marketing person worth their salt knows the power of “going viral.” Social media and the Internet can bring potentially huge exposure for a business as a result of social media channels ability to easily and quickly share information. With content marketing as the lead driver, the ability to instantly share information or expertise on the social networks means that any business with the creativity and determination can raise awareness quickly. “Social media’s success is built on the ability of people to access and share information”. Just visit any profile or view any piece of content on social media and you will be encouraged to vote, like or share the information. Our natural tendency coupled with some encouragement from the social networks has resulted in buyers and consumers sharing millions of pieces of content around the Internet about products or services they like or dislike.

Marketing and sales teams that maximise the potential of social media create a sustainable mechanism to attract prospective buyers and turn existing customers into brand advocates for the product/service. Through sharing of relevant and quality content, a business can potentially reach hundreds, thousands and possible millions of people with their message.

social-media-effectiveness

CONTENT IS NOT KING, IT IS A KINGMAKER.

That all too familiar marketing quote that “content is king” should in reality be “content is a kingmaker”. Content cannot be king, but through the sharing of quality, insightful and useful information, content can influence buyers (in search results, on forums, in reviews and social networks) so they come to view a business as king of their topic. Well crafted and optimised content found on search engines, social media and web sites creates a path leading potential buyers straight to the seller’s site. Content marketing can be any type of information that can be indexed on the web. This includes articles, info-graphics, video, podcasts, whitepapers and any type of information that can be accessed online by buyers. The power of content is its ability to inform and influence prospective buyers. The goal for sales and marketing is to create compelling content in different formats, which when shared will influence potential customers seeking information before making a purchasing decision that their company is the one to consider. Any business who fails to create and share content bestows advantage to their competitors who do incorporate content as part of their business strategy.

So why are the most successful companies in the world fully engaged with social media marketing? Because it is where the buyers are! Social media and content matters in sales to make your business and not the competition the king. It gives you the advantage and turns potential buyers away from the competition towards your offerings. That is one powerful motivation to use social media to sell more and win business.

Content Marketing Done Right

Content marketing when done right can deliver exceptional results yet as many as 75% of marketing departments are doing content marketing the wrong way. One big and critical difference between content marketing and promotional marketing can be summed up in these two words: sharing versus telling.

Today’s digital savvy buyers and educated consumers are ignoring traditional advertising and sales tactics like never before. They have become immune to brands telling them what to buy. Banner ads and online advertising are also feeling the heat with ad blocking technologies like AdBlock and AdDetctor helping consumers avoid advertising altogether. As one marketing agency stated “Internet savvy people are more likely to sign up for a trip to Mars than click on some banner ads.”

So, the logic would follow as buyers and consumers turn away from interruption ads online and are even using tools to nullify them, then marketing have responded to this challenge to ad weariness, right?

Ah no, this is unfortunately not always the case.

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Marketing is contributing to “Content Blindness”

When developing content marketing strategies, over 75% of marketing leaders report that product mentions are a regular tactic in their content strategies. (The Economist Group). Marketing departments have responded to the move away from online advertising or “ad blindness”by viewers and implemented content marketing tactics to counteract this decline in raising product awareness. However by flooding the social media networks with promotional lead content, they are in fact now encouraging “content blindness”.

The sharing of content has become a breeding ground for brand plugging and promotional stuffing. The result is audiences are now starting to see some content shared by brands as being deceiving, missing out on the fact that when you strip away the advertising pitch many of these brands have powerful stories to share.

Content marketing is primarily about sharing great stories and as you earn the audiences trust you can begin selling your products. The hard sales pitch tends to turn off potential customers, so rather going straight into selling mode, start with building trust and credibility through informative content that adds value.

Prior to publishing an article or blog post, ask the following questions:

  • Does the content offer real insights on a market or interest OTHER than plugging how great a product or service is?
  • Do the articles and blogs showcase the company’s expertise by providing actionable tips or research based analysis?

If the answer is, “Yes,” to these questions, your content is ready to publish.

Hold on I hear you say, so if we work diligently to create content NOT to sell to our readers, then how do we use content marketing sell?”

Well research shows that less is more, the least sales pitch orientated articles drive more sales when executed correctly. This is because the content will drive awareness (inform, educate, amuse, engage) and ultimately help prospects become qualified leads as they consider you as a viable purchasing option.

Any business can create a content marketing journey for their prospects and over time gently guide them to the solution to solve their problems: considering your product or service. But the patience and skill is you have to let them arrive at that conclusion at their own pace.

what-is-content-marketing

Educate Through Content – Highlight Your Expertise

Real content marketing is about sharing thought leadership or research, addressing problems or market trends your customers or potential customers face. This stream of valuable content acts like a seed, planting the ideas which overtime grows into the realisation to prospects that they need your product or service.

The stark reality is that the press release route and publishing in-depth product descriptions serves only to create a wall between you and your audience. Audiences just tune out if they have not been primed with educational content before you go for the sale with “sales content”.

Also B2B buyers now use social media to research trends, reviews and ways to improve their business. This presents a great opportunity for marketers. But are B2B marketers missing the mark?

Well, the CMO Council studied how buyers viewed content published by business-to-business marketers. This quote may help focus your content strategy: “Business to business buyers and influencers are turned off by self-serving, irrelevant, over-hyped, and overly technical content.”

Still lots of B2B marketers think that “content marketing” almost like a Trojan horse, publishing product descriptions in the guise of content. But buyers constantly remind us they are not ready to be sold the moment they see some sales content. Their journey is about accessing content that understands their problems first.

So when publishing content on forums, LinkedIn or on the company blog, keep these best practices in mind:

  1. Hold the sell. As most readers are looking to learn more about a topic, do not start bombarding them with promotional jabber. Content sharing focuses on engaging them through quality articles packed with valuable insights to encourage them to learn more. Remember, in the sales process it takes anywhere between three and thirteen interactions for a prospect to turn into a qualified lead, so starting a “social conversation” with a sales pitch baked in will chase away potential customers, so the goal is to get them to stick around to learn something.
  2. Think of your audience, not your product. When creating and sharing content, always prioritise an audience first approach. What would the readers want to learn more about? What obstacles are they encountering and how can you overcome those? When you tap into your prospects’ needs and issues, you can create content that they can align themselves to and encourages them to continue the education process.
  3. Become a valuable information resource. Publish helpful content on a consistent basis will give readers a reason to visit your blog time after time. Becoming a go-to resource is critical to building up followers and readers. I also suggest that carefully offering a white paper, e-book or case study to visitors is a way to gain more in-depth information.

As your journey into content marketing continues, remember that telling is not selling so put your audience’s interests before your own. Content will only grow in quantity on the web, and the way to avoid content blindness and do it right is never use sales pitches disguised as articles. Instead focus on sharing your expertise and insights. Always write to benefit the reader. As time progresses readers will take note of your genuine approach to offering solutions and then will be happy to engage with the sales process.

Social Media Business Tips

These social media business tips may help a start-up or a business where social media marketing is a vital component in driving the business forward. Also to act as a refresher to any marketing person that may be working on different marketing projects at the same time making it difficult to remember all the steps. The main tip when it comes to social media marketing is that it must part of the daily routine so it needs to be resourced, planned and worked on.

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Tip Number 1. Understand the content marketing strategy

To be successful in social media the social media manager marketer must understand the content marketing strategy. From understanding the goals, objectives and desired outcomes to knowing who the audience is and what type of voice (thought leader, informative, educational, authoritive or maybe humorous) the business has selected to communicate with. All the critical questions are answered in a well planned content strategy, so any business or social media manager needs to know it, understand it, always has it to hand, live it and tweak while optimising it when called for.

Tip Number 2. Always have new content to post

Content marketing is not just about new content; the critical point is new, relevant and quality content that brings a different angle to a topic. The lesson for any social media manager is that new content posted regularly will help reach an audience but it is the quality and nature of the content that will achieve engagement to audiences or buyers on the social networks. So the social media manager needs to plan ahead and ensure there is always some new content ready to be posted. Creating quality content will and does take up a considerable amount of time and effort so it needs to be resourced.

Tip Number 3. Set up a content marketing schedule

Social media has to be a business function like finance or product, so the social media team needs to have a roadmap that calls out when you need to create and publish content, a content marketing schedule or diary. This also has the added effect to fully sync your social media activities with other business areas or events within that timeframe.  Try and use the 80/20 rule, 80% of your content is proactive in that it requires more effort so needs to be planned leaving 20% to publish any articles in reaction to any event or news..

Tip Number 4. Generating new content ideas

The value and impact of quality, original and insightful content a social media marketing strategy cannot be overstated. Sales and marketing together need to spend time brainstorming content ideas. It is crucial that the person leading the social media activity plans and allocates time to it. Every business that wants to maximize the results on social media efforts will pay attention to content ideas as to keep the content fresh, unique and interesting. Only then will a business be successful in engaging an audience. One simple way to generating ideas for content is to look at competitors blogs and other popular posts on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook to see what content works for them.

Tip Number 5. Follow news and trends for content ideas

Social selling and social media function better when people share news and articles from various sources, so keep on top of industry or market news and current events. This also allows the social media marketer to react quickly to hot topics which is one method to boost your social network influence. Use a social media tool to monitor hashtags, social conversations and people in order to keep up the date and on top of the trending topics. Social networks move at speed so when the opportunity presents itself it is important to be there ready to drive your own awareness and exposure.

Tip Number 6. Use imagery and visual media

Social media impact improves by using visual media, infographics, video and imagery. The use of imagery and a visually impacting way of presenting social content it is more likely to reach and engage a larger audience. Quality content is more than text and social media marketing has to include the production of visual elements such as photos, infographics and video content.social-selling-facts

Tip Number 7. Track, monitor and report on progress

There is no point investing time and marketing money in social media activities if a business does not track, monitor and have a report dashboard on progress against the targets set out in the social media marketing plan. So it is vital for you to report on the various social network activities (posts, articles, comments, shares), what results were achieved (leads, likes, connections, followers, sales,) and any plans for the next phase. It is best if this is reported to all the team including sales, marketing and management at regular intervals preferably on a weekly basis. Every business needs a clear ROI on any resource invested and social media is no different. It must deliver results.

So there are some quick 7 tips on social media for a business or marketing person looking to refresh themselves on some of steps to be successful in social marketing.

Sales and Marketing Ireland 

Sales and Marketing articles,tips and information for Irish companies.

The sales and marketing buzzword word at the moment is “Social Selling”; where the sales process is now tapping into social media conversations and the impact of social networks in driving brand awareness or buyer consideration. Most sales and marketing leaders would concur that the sales process has completely changed.

Read all the series of articles relating to content marketing and sales here: Source: Sales and Marketing Ireland (with images) · brianoconnell · Storify

Sales Strategy – Marketing Services – Sales Consultant – Social Selling – Inbound Marketing – Lead Generation

I'm always available to have a chat on your business plans and any challenges in lead generation, social selling, marketing or sales.