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.

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  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

How to Use Social Media To Promote Your Business

The use of social media is now the most effective way when you need to promote or launch a business or new product. The free access to social networks for prospect identification and the ability to reach a large audience of buyers via content means every marketing or sales leader has to use these channels as part of a go-to-market strategy. When launching a new product or service,   social media provides a rich media platform that with some planning can make it easy for people to share around your message.

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It doesn’t seem like so long ago that promoting, marketing and launching a product whether nationally or global required a massive budget and was one of the barriers to entry the traditional multi-nationals relied upon. But the digital switch by buyers to self-educate on the social networks has re-written both the sales and marketing rules.

The following approach or any part of it can be used by anyone with the right discipline and time.

Use Facebook

Action:

Create a Facebook fan page specifically for your brand or product, then share and network with the Facebook community as it is the largest single social networking site on the web. Remember it is about engagement and then sharing. To build up your fan and advocacy base to give you that critical mass to share your stories/messages, why not offer an incentive to “like” your page, maybe by giving some merchandise or prize.

Suggested Primary Goal:

Create an incentive for people to “like” your page by providing via a free product giveaway in order to grow your fan base.

Use LinkedIn

Action:

With over 400 million business users, one of your first actions should be to create a company page, followed by joining interest groups related to what you are selling. Don’t forget to pimp up your profile with a photo and fill out as much detail in your profile as possible. Learn about “social selling” and how to use content from your blog (see below) along with other content to engage connections. You can also search and tag prospects, influencers and potential partners.

Suggested Primary Goal:

To identify potential buyers and partners for your brand or products.

Website and Blog

Action:

Thanks to WordPress, Weebly, Medium, Blogger etc it has never been easier or cheaper to create your own branded web presence and attract potential buyers (with some SEO and promotional activity). For less than €100 you can have your own domain and less than €500 can give you a fully branded website. Learn to target keywords, read up on SEO and how to share your website URL’s on sites like Plurk, Scoop.it, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Pinterest to name but a few, will start to give you a trickle of traffic to build upon.

Learn to write 1000 plus word blogs with titles like Tips, How to, A guide to or Top 10 so you can further use social media to attract potential buyers and improve your search engine results. Try to write a blog weekly but monthly at a minimum. Don’t forget to share and post your blog articles around the web.

Suggested Primary Goal

To make it easier for potential buyers to engage with you while finding out more about your business.

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Product Reviews by Social Influencers

Action:

If possible, prior to formal launch try to get some external product reviews, even recommendations. As the trust between buyer and suppliers is at an all time low, peer recommendations instead of marketing blurb can give your business a much needed injection of interest. Maybe offer your product free in return for publishable references.  Apart from using LinkedIn there is a whole host of social tools (lots are free) that you can use to identify social influencers or connectors. Also do not forget journalists and online magazines, approaching them can be as simple as crafting an introduction letter with an invitation to review or sample your offerings. Ensure you put a unique slant on your business, what problem is it solving and why would people be interested in your personal story.

Suggest Primary Goal:

To gather independent and verifiable 3rd party authority as social proof, which you will then share with potential customers.

Have a Contest

Action:

Who doesn’t love a good ole a contest and they work well on Social media especially in the B2C space. Using your social media channels, offer up some real goodies (if not your actual product then something related to it). Keep it simple, you are not trying to snare emails, you chasing “share ability”

Suggest Primary Goal

Note: Get a fan base engaged before you officially launch your business or product so that when you do launch you have a fan base that could be ready to buy and spread your message for you whether that is on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. The combination of your regularly updated blog, website and your social media community activity can be a powerful platform for getting in revenue faster.

Try a Quiz

Action:

It is also easy to create and publish a quiz on your website and social channels. Just do a Google search for “create a quiz”. There are some free and paid options. People like to test their knowledge and if you can relate or match the quiz to your product even better.

There doesn’t have to be a prize but you could combine it with a contest as above.

Suggested Primary Goal: To engage customers and also create more buzz.

Create Infographics or Video

Action:

The rise in popularity of infographics and video content in social media cannot be ignored. Sites like Canva, Visualize, Piktochart and Easel.ly make it easy for anyone with some patience to create stunning graphic stories. You can even create video content online but there is a higher price to be paid here, if your product is very visual then maybe a 20-30 second video for YouTube or Vimeo maybe a must.

Suggested Primary Goal: To provide some wow media formats that could go ‘viral’.

sales motivation

SlideShare

Action:

You can create a PowerPoint presentation that could not serve as a key note presentation but would also publish on Slideshare to spread your message while reinforcing your professional image.

Suggested Primary Goal: Publish on the Slideshare platform to make it easy for people to

These few tips on using social media when launching a business or product are by no mean exhaustive, what else have you tried? The purpose of the article is that with a limited budget and the learning of new skills (social selling, social media marketing, creating infographics, writing blogs, running contests etc) most of us can achieve results beyond our expectations. Oh yeah, did I mention lots of hard work but no pain no gain.

Social Media Marketing Tips for Small Business

Small business can struggle to strategically use social media marketing to get their message out. In fact at times social media can feel a bit overwhelming. The top 10 social network sites, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+, Tumblr, Instagram, VK, Flickr, Vine and a host of other niche networks generate huge audience participation for a business to market themselves to.  But where does one start, which social network suits best and what are the best methods to market a small business using social media?

Here is a list of tips to help any small business to better use social media to get their message in front of their target audience.

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Create a social media marketing plan. Plan out what you want to achieve, how you are going to achieve it and what resources you need prior to kick starting any social campaign. Too many businesses just dive in and start plastering links on LinkedIn, posting images on a Facebook page or tweeting messages without first considering how social media activity can help drive their business. The reality is that to do social media in a meaningful matter requires committing resources (content creation, social selling, and social conversations) and people (content seeding, managing social profiles, community engagement) to the task. Effective social presence means constantly updating, sharing and posting to keep everything fresh to attract potential customers. Old, outdated and “infrequent” activity will just not cut it. The plan should map out a schedule that works best for the business based on resources or budgets. Social media should be viewed as a strategy investment with goals and then needs to be prioritised with clear ROI on the planned activity.

Create a buyer persona to define your target audience. Not all social media platforms work for every business, B2B is different from B2C, are you looking to sell online generate traffic or do lead generation? If you’re trying to reach B2B buyers then LinkedIn maybe your best bet or if teenagers are your target audience then Instagram could be the way to go. If the marketing or creative community is on your radar then Google+ communities is worth targeting. Also consider when this audience is most active and then plan out the posting schedule accordingly to maximise your results.

If your potential customers are teenagers then schedule social shares during the evening when they check their profiles. A good tip is start with one network and get skilled at doing it well. Then add in other networks over time.

The 3 C’s of a social media plan. Content, content and content. Content (your own and 3rd party shares) is what powers social media. Always have a fresh supply of content and make it current to the topics, season, conversations or news. A few blog posts of 1000 words plus is a good starting point. A thousand words might seem long but as a small business you need to become a subject matter expert for your industry. Share stories, insights, tips, lessons and learning’s in a friendly tone.

Use content/images/videos/guides/insights from complimentary 3rd party sources to build up your content library. In fact readers value quality content regardless of the source and recognise the person posting it as a valued contributor to the community.

Social media is multimedia. While article content is the main tool for social promotion, video is fast becoming the engagement channel among certain demographics. Video is getting easy to shoot and share. Customer interview videos with detailed discussion can be powerful. Also use imagery, pictures and infographics that showcase your company’s products.

Social media platforms are for engagement. As with social selling, all your activity should strive to drive engagement not pushing out blatant sales promotions . Follow the steps – Awareness, Consideration, Nurture and Develop. Selling comes later once you have developed a relationship. Social media is the channel for potential customers and buyers to become aware of you, to get to know you, to understand what value your can bring and to learn what your company stands for so be authentic and share content that brings value to the reader.

Become a thought influencer and source of quality information, this will attract customers to notice you and in time they become receptive to buying from you. So share quality content that reflects your own personal brand and watch as people joins you in your journey.

Stay engaged on conversations and comments. Don’t just share and disappear, stay on top of discussions and your postings. If a customer leaves a comment about something you posted (positive or negative) then don’t over react, just reply back. Buyers need to know you are listening, responsive and can engage with discussions. Listening and replying to social media conversations requires time so ensure you have planned for this activity.

The social media road should lead to your website. As you generate more awareness and consideration amongst buyers then over time they will end up visiting your website to learn more about you. So ensure you have your website in ship shape order including newsletter sign-ups, landing pages and contact us points before starting social media activities

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Your activity and content should reflect your brand. It is important to plan out so that all your social media channels, blogs, content and website reflect your brand. People want to engage with real and genuine businesses. Your content should mirror your own voice and match the topics or relevancy of your content to your business. For example, if a business is selling a HR solution, then the content needs to be factual in nature with a business tone.

If a business is selling a lifestyle product, then energetic or inspirational tones might work better. Where possible use real customer stories and always uses real testimonials on web pages.

Share to receive. Social media is not about you, it is about your customers or prospects. Study and research the language your target audience uses to talk about your industry. What topics interest them and what social conversations they engage with? Then engage them with content and insights that match these terms. The use of hashtags is a great way to join in on conversations on social media. Also optimise your content, blog and website with the keyword terms that will help you get found in web search results.

Another tip is as people do allot of question type searches (“how do polish my car?”), so a business selling car care related products will need to use this type of language in the content they publish on their blog.

Mobile is a must. Now most Facebook posts and tweets on Twitter are being done on mobile devices. Social platforms will gradually deliver a mobile first experience so your site and blog should be mobile optimised to provide a great browsing and shopping experience.

There you have it, a few social media marketing tips that might help you get the word out about your business and get the attention of the buyers you want to sell to.

Inbound Marketing Guide

There is allot of talk around “inbound marketing” and as a guide to what it means to a business. Social media marketing agencies and practitioners seem to have developed a language of their own as digital marketing has become the dominant channel. Terms such as marketing automation, marketing qualified leads, social selling and lead nurturing are now common place words in the quest for business to find more customers. Here we will try to help you understand some of this vocabulary.

inbound-marketing-guide

To start with, most inbound marketing plans would focus on five key stages

Attracting visitors/web traffic to a site,

Converting visitors to leads,

Convert those leads to paying customers,

Turn the customers into repeat purchasers,

Analyse KPI’s and metrics to improve results,

Some reasons that have boosted inbound as a marketing tactic would include the fact that companies with a content driven strategy have 50% more website visitors than those that don’t and

leads captured from inbound marketing cost 60% less traditional forms of lead generation.

The reality is that an inbound marketing strategy has more or less the same goals as outbound marketing so the difference between them is not what any company wants from the marketing effort but how it goes about getting it. Inbound marketing is focused on attracting IN buyers to consider a brand usually with content as the bait (articles, videos, images, whitepapers etc) while outbound marketing employs diversion tactics (online ads, direct mail, cold calling) to get buyers attention. Most businesses would use a mixture of inbound and outbound marketing. A worrying trend is that some effective outbound activities like prospecting and lead generation via sales people is becoming dormant as too many start-ups or small businesses rely exclusively on inbound marketing to deliver leads and sales.

For a whole host of reasons, inbound marketing is now the primary channel deployed to engage buyers when considering a purchase due to the more non-interruption nature of inbound marketing.

Below are a list of activities and terms relating to inbound marketing, so next time a social media marketing agency speaks about how to put in place a plan then you will be well prepared to talk about it. While content is the rock upon which inbound marketing is built there is more to this strategy than articles, it also includes the use of social selling, targeting long tail keywords, interest sharing, engaging in social network conversations, attracting social media influencers and managing multi platform social channels.

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So here are some inbound buzzwords to improve your marketing speak.

 Inbound Marketing Plan;

The inbound marketing plan is basically a publishing calendar of activities including goals and targets covering blogging, content themes, articles, and whitepapers, landing pages, social networks engagement, social selling, lead generation, traffic and engagement in social media conversations.

Growth Hacking;

A recent term added to the marketing vocabulary. Mainly a tactic employed by start-ups in the App or SaaS space, growth hacking works on out of the box thinking blended with technology to try to achieve massive growth in numbers in a short pace of time. The sole focus of using this as a strategy is to grow big (web traffic, social media followers etc but not revenue) quick so every action is designed to drive that growth.

Viral Marketing;

This is about taking a marketing campaign, seeding it to other people and hoping the content appeals on a large enough scale to make the campaign grow rapidly. It is the multi level marketing of the digital age. Think “Ice Bucket Challenge”. Lots of marketing people go to bed at night dreaming about their image, video or article going viral. However the reality is there is little control when it comes to what will go viral. To try and make viral marketing work the key is to create some unusual content that will get lots of people to promote it for you. The more people who share your content will lead to increased brand exposure. It boils down to encouraging people to plug you to their social media audiences.

A/B Testing;

This refers to the testing of two different versions of the same email template, landing page or call to action (CTA) to figure out which version delivers the best results. A/B testing is something all marketers should do. Examples would be to take a call to action and test it with different strap lines, colours, text, and or with a different image. This allows you to determine which call to action performed better. So don’t guess as different messaging works to different audiences and even geo-locations. Always be testing as even a small percentage increase in leads or traffic can have a huge impact on sales (depending on your average order value).

Content Marketing;

Content marketing is the seed that will grow to capture future opportunities for web traffic, leads and customers. It is the bedrock upon which inbound marketing was formed and still powers. It involves the creating and distribution of valuable, relevant content on a consistent basis (daily, weekly) to attract buyers with the goal of getting the customer to take some predetermined actions. The content created is heavily keyword/SEO orientated the majority of time for a start-up and a high percentage of the time for companies with larger databases.

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Marketing Automation;

 Marketing automation is software that is used to automate large parts of the marketing process like lead nurturing, content publishing to social media or auto-responder emails. This software usually appeals to mid-sized upwards companies with larger databases or well trafficked sites.  Marketing automation is mostly used to improve the nurturing, conversion and closing stages of the sales funnel and is not a one fit fits all solution. The hard work of getting traffic and creating content is still yours to complete.

Social Selling;

Social selling is a great inbound tactic, despite its name it is not focused on sales but rather selling oneself or a brand to raise awareness to buyers of what you offer. It is a subtle and patient tactic where time is spent building up trust or “emotional lodgements”. It works on the premise that social media accounts are a fantastic broadcast channel while also a place to gradually build relationships and make connections. The key is to share content from other sources (not just your own), like other articles, participate in social conversations and provide regular updates. Social selling can be used as the key to unlock sales calls if used correctly, otherwise you are seen as a smash and grab merchant.

Lead Nurturing;

This is the marketing or sales process that is set in motion after someone downloads or fills in a form (newsletter, white paper) on your website. In the B2B sales environment it could be a series of emails together will social selling and direct sales contract. In B2C it usually involves a series of emails. The skill here is that when someone downloads a piece of content from your site, you ask (and give reasons) for them to provide their email address. Now with the verified and opted-in email address, you can implement a series of emails to be sent to them in the next days, week or month after they first signed up to downloaded something. Lead nurturing is important as it reduces your cost of customer acquisition and allows you to build a relationship as you know what they are interested in from your offerings. Be careful not to over expect the speed of developing the relationship or put too much urgency into the nurturing as their initial sign-up could only be a top of the funnel action.

Long Tail Keywords;

This term usually applies to your content marketing efforts and is the SEO keywords you have selected to target. These keywords are normally three plus words such as “social media marketing in Ireland” and are not as competitive in Google as a one word keyword such as “marketing.” Google also auto suggests long tail keywords so research these as part of your content strategy. Can I target hot or one word keyword, you ask? Sure as lots of people are probably searching on that word daily but on the flipside your competitors are targeting these keywords too. It could take years to even get on page 5 of Google for a heavily trafficked keyword. Ten or twenty well indexed long tail keywords when combined will deliver just as much traffic in the medium term as a single keyword. So when creating content titles and web URL’s, choose longer, more detailed keywords. If you research your buyer profiles well enough you will get clicks and views from potential buyers from your target market faster than you think.

The above is not a complete list of phrases as new words and terms come into play all the time around inbound marketing but hopefully by the time you have read this article, some of them are still relevant. Thanks for reading.

B2B Marketing Strategies

In the world of B2B marketing strategies, CMO’s and marketing leads are finding out that there is allot more to them than just content and SEO.

Social media marketing companies seem to trot out the well worn lines of, you must create a library full of content, recalibrate your SEO, share the content on the social networks, and HEY PRESTO. Your business will have a flow of low cost inbound leads from buyers interested in buying your product or service. The logic around a content lead strategy for lots of businesses stacks up as the lower cost of an inbound lead against an outbound lead is sizeable, making it attractive to invest in SEO, articles, blogging and content.

b2b-marketing

So it can be easy for any marketer to assume that we all use social media. Most marketing people are active on the social networks as it forms part of marketing tactics and we also have to be up-to-date on latest trends. However, this is not the case for lots of senior business people and buyers. I have worked with lots of CEO’s who do not have profiles on LinkedIn or Twitter. Others in senior positions are not actively engaged with social media to get a result on trying to build awareness for your brand or even social selling tactics.

What lots of social media agencies will never tell you is that an inbound strategy does not work for all market sectors and can be in fact a waste of money, resources and time. For certain B2B companies operating in certain markets or industries, the reality is the target buyer audience can be too small or the products or services too specialised to be worth over investing in SEO, Google Adwords or Content Marketing. If your business is a new or disruptive product then maybe buyers is not yet doing keyword searches on Google for the solutions you sell.

You see most inbound marketing tactics try to hit multiple keywords or topics to engage buyers. Most of these tactics really are inexpensive to tee up and implement but the audience engagement is not an exact science (you can’t stop anyone reading your articles). So it does take some time to refine your tactics to narrow down sell-to leads.

When articles or blog posts are ranked in search engine results, the relevancy to the topic is mainly down to the keywords it has been optimised for. If your target is HR directors in the banking industry in Ireland then content and even paid advertising cannot be specifically targeted at them(you cannot control who reads or clicks). There are exceptions like social selling tools like LinkedIn or Connectors Marketplace where you can specify buyer profiles.

Let me be clear, I am not for one second suggesting B2B marketers should discount social media as part of their marketing strategy. The thing to remember is to keep the purpose and goals in perspective, don’t get carried away by stories, statistics and advice that may or may not be relevant to your business proposition.

To make social media pay, you should:
• Evaluate the social platforms for their fit to your marketing goals
• Can you feed them with quality content and informative articles
• Train up the sales team in social selling so they can use social media to nurture relationships

So when does inbound marketing have limited returns?

  • The buyer is a specific person within that company: If one buyer has the authority to purchase your product with little influence from other stakeholders as it is not a critical purchasing decision (e.g. paper) then it is a challenge to engage this person with inbound marketing alone.
  • The target market is small: When the target prospects are defined by location, company size or a single buyer (see above) in a company, the list of prospects can be very small. My own rule of thumb is if your prospect list is less than 1000 companies then a heavily weighted inbound strategy may only be helpful to raise awareness as the buyer will probably be targeted via sales calls.
  • Disruptive technology or products: Where inbound excels is when the buyer is on a journey of self discovery (reading articles, whitepapers or engaged with social conversations) and where they understand the problem and the solutions. When a product is disruptive in nature a business may have to create demand as few buyers will be seeking out information. Inbound marketing does NOT create demand, it harvest levels of buyer interest based on keyword nets thrown out by marketing content.

The reality is that for some companies, the keyword net on Google searches and the social networks is simply too small to gather enough sales leads. This leaves options like outbound sales and referrals to harvest leads. We know referrals have a high conversion rate but this is not a repeatable sales process. So this leaves outbound selling (combined with social selling) makes for a repeatable, scalable sales process.

As someone who champions inbound marketing, social selling and good old fashioned sales techniques, I have to be frank and say if your products or services meet any of the criteria I wrote about above, then inbound marketing alone as a lead channel will have limited success. So contrary to what lots of social media gurus preach, inbound marketing is only part of the solution and it may not be a lead generation machine to feed sales.

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So what marketing and sales strategies will work?

Marketing and sales leaders spend endless hours asking and answering this very question, “Where and how do we engage the right prospects?” The good news is there are still lots of options when it comes to reaching B2B prospects.

Embrace outbound prospecting: Hire in sales people who can pick up the phone and prospect AKA cold call. A business can now subscribe to automated lead generation platforms to give you large lists of prospects based on titles, industry and location with full contact details (email and telephone numbers) including social media profiles for social selling engagement. This works great for SaaS companies and companies with defined sales processes.

Still some life in events and trade shows: Attending events can be another way to connect with your target prospects and meet them in face-to-face. This can be a very personal approach that creates trust and builds relationships. The big barrier  is that events cost money, have higher cost per lead, take time to plan and are they cannot scale in any major way.

Industry Webinars: If your own marketing reach is too small to make hosting your own webinar an option, then maybe consider trying to find a market research company, an industry publication or forum or a contact where you can piggy bank on their webinars to get access to their audience. It does take effort but can be a great way to grow a prospect list while providing valuable content to generate more awareness.

Customer Referrals: Some businesses do manage to generate a large portion of their leads via customer referrals and word of mouth. But a note of caution, this tactic is difficult to forecast and scale. Also from a sales process, it is hard to have a programmatic approach to word of mouth referrals. Even formal referral programs usually have low level of leads in certain B2B sectors.

Exposure in publications: Online and print publications are a B2B marketing channel worth exploring. Product reviews, news and interviews can be a great way to reach an audience and connect with prospects

We must all accept that the buyer’s journey is changing. Yes, social media marketing agencies are right when they say business buyers are increasingly relying on social media, social conversations, social reviews and other content as a means of gathering information about vendor solutions. But regardless of what B2B marketing strategy you pursue to generate leads or sales, there is still a huge place for direct human contact via well trained sales people. In the sales process there will always be a place where questions will best be addressed in a personal way especially in higher value deal sizes.

B2B Social Media Strategy

How many small businesses really value a B2B social media strategy as a channel to create awareness and drive customer acquisition? As the social media networks and communities run into millions of business buyers on a journey of discovery the question has to be asked

Is your business maximising the potential of social marketing.

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I am certainly not the only one who can prove that you can get leads and sales from social media plus measure the success; however some marketing and PR people still are not fully informed on what social media has been able to achieve in the past few years. If any proof was needed I have many examples of B2B focused businesses who have implemented a successful social strategy to engage buyers and drive higher consideration levels for their product or service. Yet many companies still have a very limited exposure or plan on to use social networks to help scale their sales. Is it due to a lack of resources, maybe   not sure of the value or return, maybe you think your business or product does not warrant investing in social, uncertain as to what social media can do or is it just a simple case of unsure as to how to implement a social media strategy?

If you are a business owner selling into a B2B market then maybe it is time to challenge some of your beliefs regarding the power of social. Nearly every business size and type can utilise social networking to boost buyer consideration. As a starting point let us discuss the various buzzwords and concepts we hear mentioned.

What does it mean to be a social business

The words “social media” can conjure up all types of ideas and meanings. While most people will identify or even use platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook, any strategy involving a social element is more than just profiles or getting followers. Being a social business means defining a whole range of actions and goals that match a bigger business. At the heart of it all social marketing is a belief, a concept, and an approach to engaging people for work, pleasure, family, friends or business. There were the ideals from which all platforms were created and I am sure on which new ones will be formed. However it is not limited just to the platforms mentioned above.

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Social media allows us to open communication channels, local and global interactions and instantly share information or news across large networks of people.

If we take a wider or bird’s eye view of how social can impact our business then we switch from simply seeing B2B marketing as managing our Twitter account or Facebook page towards really evaluating how much a B2B social media strategy can help our business as a whole from sales to customer support to recruitment. The use of social networks can rapidly improve how we communicate both internally and to the external market which can open up all types of possibilities that go beyond the traditional view of what social media does for a business.

Let me give you a powerful example as to what social media can achieve.

The Ice Bucket Challenge. Just a few short summers ago, we all were throwing buckets of ice over ourselves or over someone else. It all started with someone living with Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS) to raise awareness for people suffering from it. The idea quickly spread, so fast that the ALS Association made it an official charity effort. This fun activity, shared by so many of social media raised over $115 million for the charity. It resulted in over one million related videos on Facebook videos and got over two million mentions on Twitter.

Now I’m not suggesting business owner’s start throwing buckets of ice over their heads but I am using this example as a reason to encourage anyone involved in B2B sales or marketing to think broader about social. Even a small change in how we view things can bring a big change in what we prioritise.

There are many ways to extract value from the social networks

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There are many ways in which the networks can help those in a B2B market to achieve their goals. A common issue I still find is that many B2B businesses still do not fully understand how social media can help them.

Most social media strategy plans are centred on using social to engage directly with a target audience. As a business network, LinkedIn is proving to be really effective for B2B sales and for social selling. As how sales teams prospect for new customers evolve then LinkedIn will increase in value for how sales people research and engage potential customers.

Now I hear you say, “OK apart from LinkedIn where else can I use social media in a B2B sales environment?” Well, it may surprise you but a business can use Twitter, Facebook, Owler, Crunchbase, Medium, Google+, Pinterest, WordPress and Blogger to drive buyer engagement. This list is not exhaustive. The value in B2B social media can be found in SEO, in readership, in views, in reviews, in referrals, in content found and shared, for data in social conversations, in buyer’s profiles, in social data and in potential buyer contact details.

There are tens if not hundreds of industry forums, interest groups and social business groups which can be tapped into to increase awareness for your business. Also think about what you can get out not just about what you have to put in (content, articles, information news). Does your strategy involve using the networks to source emails, telephone numbers, conference attendees, competitor analysis, event details, buyer likes and interactions?

Social Media Strategy is not an option

It is a must have. The world and buyers are changing how we source vendors. The average life expectancy of a company is now approx. fifteen years. Due to the impact the internet has on all our lives whether consumer or business means the world is moving fast and faster. As social media becomes more and more accessible on mobile, TV and devices while time poor buyers turn to it to self discover for purchasing decisions, then not engaging with it can leave you at a disadvantage.

Now is the time for B2B companies to really make social a key part of not only their digital strategy but their overall business strategy.

Social Media Facts and Trends

Social media facts and trends for marketing supported by user statistics are now influencing marketing strategies and tactics. Companies have already started to bypass the more traditional mass media products of radio campaigns, TV ads and press promotions in favour of driving awareness on the social networks.

Listed below are some social media facts, trends and social media statistics to help inform how or where a business might focus their social media strategy.

Remember that today, social media is allot more than just likes, followers or branding. It is a complete publishing and sales channel with the ability to tap into large volumes of data together with a reach that stretches into the millions of buyers.

Build a social network channel now

This is not a trend, this is a must do. Any business who is resourcing and building their social media channels (populating them with audiences) are creating an online publishing platform with built in marketing channels and a content marketing distribution network that works 24/7. Company leadership should view these social media networks as valuable digital assets that will grow each year. Done correctly, social media networks will give any business huge leverage in winning over customers and a connected marketing channel which works nonstop.

So without further ado, let us take a look at statistics for the major social media networks.

Statistics on Social Media Demographics

The social media networks are a whole universe of conversations, tweets, like, followers, profiles, content, data and interests. Social data tells us they are no longer just used by the young and the nerds. Social media interaction is a truly global activity, embraced daily by people of all ages and in every corner of the web.

Social media trends and statistics

# 72% of all internet users are now active on social media

# 89% of 18-29 year age group use social media

# 30-49 age groups has now over 72% usage

# Over 60 percent of 50 to 60 year olds are active on social media

# Even in the 65 plus age bracket, 43% are using social media

# 84% of C-level/vice president executives use social media to support purchase decisions

# Nearly one in three consumers are influenced by social media in their purchases

# 87% of consumers are influenced by reviews read on social media

# 71% of users access social media from a mobile device

# Twitter has over half a billion users

# Facebook has over 1 billion users

# LinkedIn has nearly a quarter of a billion users

# Google+ has more than 2.5 billion users but only 10% are active

The myth that social media is the playground of the young has been debunked. Buyers, consumers, shoppers, sellers, seekers, businesses and organisations are all to be found in the social media universe. The age barrier is no longer relevant except for demographic targeting

“Facebook is still the biggest social media network. But Google+ and Twitter are serious contenders for audiences”.

Marketing and Business Love Social Media

93% of marketing departments use social media for branding/business

70% of brands have a presence on Google+

Facebook, Twitter and Google+ are the top 3 sites used by marketing

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Here are some other social media statistics and infographics to mull over.

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Every business that wants to engage deeper with target audiences should be increasingly aware of the global march towards a near total digital age, one which rewrites the rules on how brands engage with buyers.

These social media statistics with researched data makes it even more evident that the only way forward to engaging consumers and buyers is through social media communications.
Understanding the global social media landscape is not just some useful information; it provides valuable insights and data that must be central to any business strategy.

Social Media Trends – Forecast

#Social media is “in-the-moment” updates will grow rapidly. Real time sharing of video and content is going to get faster and better

#Buy Buttons. Major social media brands will feature some kind of buy button as an element of their online advertising campaigns

#In-app features will spread giving marketers ever more opportunities to engage with their audiences

#New content marketing or publication channels will evolve on existing social networks

#User privacy and the use of social data concerns will grow

#Internet Users now totals 3.175 Billion, that’s nearly half of the world’s population (7.357 Billion).

#Mobile is the future. Nearly 2 Billion users utilise their mobiles for Social Media

#Social media searches within social platforms will become more powerful

#Video will grow. Videos average 62% more engagement than photos. Live video streaming is set to explode

#Smart advertising is on the up. Big data will allow brands to target specific buyer intent or triggers

#Content specific to each social media channel and audience will evolve

#The rise of influencer marketing spend within user generated content will become more visible.

So there you have some social media trends and statistics. How relevant they will be in 6 or 12 months (or by the time you have read this article) is anyone’s guess. The important thing is to keep on top on what is happening on the social networks and don’t chase every social media fad that comes along.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.