Should you elevate content development to a top priority? If your web strategy includes lead generation and converting more prospects into buyers, then a content strategy is essential. Effective content increases sales force productivity by:
» Educating your customers.
» Attracting new prospects.
» Helping buyers formulate purchasing decisions.
» Improving SEO.
» Increasing sales ready leads and generating new revenue.
Does your online content connect with customers and prospects?
But, Your Sales Team Handles Prospecting
20 years ago, sales reps handled prospecting. But using 1990s practices is ineffective in 2015. There's no substitute for effective sales reps or person-to-person selling. However, in our digital age, as buyers use online resources to formulate purchasing decisions, effective content serves as a member of your sales team. When efforts to connect in person or by phone are unsuccessful, it allows your audience to learn about you even if they aren't speaking with you directly. And as they become familiar with your company and your services, they are more likely to consider you a viable options when it's time to buy.
It Starts With Education
From broad education to detailed in-person meetings, buyers progress through different stages of discovery while formulating a purchasing decision. Before the Internet, in the days when buyers had hours of daily supplier meetings, the sales rep acted as the company Wikipedia. Prospects learned about industry trends, new products and better ways to do things from these discussions. Today, whether it's the actual Wikipedia, or websites, blogs and social media, the information gathering shifted online. Almost 90% of enterprise purchasing decisions include some level of search. Content is critical.
Buyers Go Through A Process
In the ongoing supplier meetings of yesteryear, buyers agreed to appointments, with companies of all shapes and sizes. Long standing major suppliers, companies with only a small slice of business and new companies trying to get a "foot in the door" met to inform and pitch. Although "sharpen your pencil" might have been a primary motivation, the meetings were also an opportunity to consider a different and possibly better way of doing things.
It wasn't formalized, but buyers followed a process. They evaluated long term relationships. Decided if a newer supplier was worthy of more business and learned from established and prospective providers.
Sometimes the buyer knew exactly what they needed. But, innovations didn't occur executing the status quo. Recombining ideas from these conversations sparked new ways of thinking and that's where significant opportunities often occurred. Progressive companies used these ideas to build and grow. Today, you spark that new way of thinking through meaningful content.
Buying Stage 1 - Discovering A Need
Think about your routine. Online and offline sources aid in formulating a thought process that identifies the benefits of doing something different. For example, a sales manager is always looking to improve sales force productivity. They ignore a voice mail from a CRM provider. However, they do read articles on sales force productivity. CRM is a common topic. They learn and become interested in CRM as a productivity enhancing tool. They didn't consider CRM important until they discovered the productivity need it could fulfill.
You don't grow and progress by doing the same thing all the time. Neither does your audience. Passively or actively, prospects are influenced by the information they consume. And that discovery is typically in the form of education.
- Education through newsletters, white papers, blog posts and videos.
- Detailing trends, benchmarks and statistics.
- Showing what's new and why it matters.
- Best in class examples
All serve to trigger thought in your prospects mind that they do have a need.
Buying Stage 2 - Understanding & Relevance
Once a prospect arrives at the "I have a need" conclusion, they then look to develop a deeper understanding of the capability. Here again, content allows you to fill in the knowledge gaps and start to build a brand relationship. Providing information such as:
- Viable solutions to pain points
- Benefits to specific job functions
- Case studies addressing specific needs
Will aid in their understanding. It also allow the prospect to begin assessing if a supplier is relevant to their needs.
Buying Stage 3 - Are You Right For Me
Content still has a place in this stage but it's also where you expect a much greater sales involvement. Validate your position through:
- Industry related experience
- Implementation guides
Product demonstrations, references and other confidence boosting interactions should be executed 1:1. When a buyer reaches stage 3 a lead is considered "sales ready."
Content Increases Sales Force Productivity
Content isn't the single answer to executing a sales ready lead. However, utilizing it as a part of the selling process allows you to capture opportunities that otherwise wouldn't occur. And it allows your sales team to use their time more productively. The content complements their prospecting efforts, doing the heavy lifting, and allowing them to get involved when the 1:1 interaction is most important.
Companies that use content effectively increase sales ready leads and revenue. Isn't that worth the effort?