We’ve had many brands walk through our doors (or more often we’ve walked through theirs) looking to jump into marketing; and they all have their reasons: brand awareness, demand generation, lead generation, thought leadership, meaningful engagement with their audience. For all these, however, there is still the requirement of return on investment.
In truth, the best content marketing creates communities, brand awareness and loyalty. Creating a return on your marketing objectives can be just as important as directly attributable return on the investment, and the value it contributes to simplifying the sale of a product or service is often overlooked because it is the long game.
A good example is American Express. The multinational is no doubt reaping the financial benefits of the successful relationships it built with small and medium businesses through OPEN Forum, which was developed through its content marketing strategy. While it does not replace traditional sales models, content provides the sales world with new opportunities.
But explaining the value of content marketing to sales teams can be tough. Who cares if someone fills in their details to download a piece of content? They don’t want to buy something – they simply want to read something. I have encountered cases where salespeople aren’t even aware of where to find marketing qualified leads in their pipeline.
While there is a much wider conversation about how marketing automation, targeted content and your CRM all work in harmony to drive sales qualified leads, here I will simply address the five key ways content marketing can directly benefit your sales team.
1. When ‘short’ isn’t a bad thing
Research shows that the sales cycles – the period from engagement to transaction – in the digital world has shortened. In fact, the sales cycle can be anywhere between 60 and 80 per cent complete before a salesperson is actually introduced. Google’s Zero Moment of Truth study estimates the figure at approximately 70 per cent, and it has become the go-to stat for those attempting to articulate the modern buyer’s journey.
This efficiency is sure to be embraced. So are salespeople becoming glorified order-takers? No, but there are definitely fewer tasks for them these days.
2. Touchpoint touchdowns – the quick sale
Your content is often the first and last touchpoint in a customer’s decision-making process. I recently conducted two meetings with two different clients. The clients were so familiar with our service offering, what we provided, our methodology and our people – and me personally – that as soon as the exchange was over they said, “Let’s get moving.” My presentation almost felt like a formality. This doesn’t happen every day, but good content marketing can definitely facilitate a quick sale.
3. Time to invest in yourself
In this speedy cycle, you can spend more time closing deals and less time educating clients. They educate themselves – we know this. But the flip side is that you need to be more informed and familiar with the content than your customers. You wouldn’t want to lose a client because they knew more about your specialisation than you did.
4. The space between the face-to-face
Content marketing should be a credible and absorbing source of information with many layers. This means that between face-to-face meetings, customers are funnelled down the path to purchase. It enables prospects to build an understanding of your brand and to keep you front of mind without you actually being there.
5. Cross-selling and upselling
If clients already know your core product, you can use the additional time you would’ve spent educating them on upselling or cross-selling instead. Your time with clients is more valuable because you can offer a service above and beyond what they were initially looking for with holistic, unique and tailored solutions.
Content marketing has become integral to the sales cycle. It should be a no-brainer for any business that wants to drive efficiency and increase revenue. Let’s face it – who doesn’t want that? As Ben Feldman once said, “Don’t sell life insurance. Sell what life insurance can do.” And as I say, “Do it through great content!”