Content marketing and sales haven't always traditionally been considered complementary departments. Though their aims -- to increase overall conversions, raising both profitability and profile for the company -- are ultimately the same, it's often assumed that each pursue these goals independently and with different (sometimes opposing) ideas about how to achieve success.
But why waste time working apart when you could save both effort and money by working together?
When choosing from the offerings in your sales toolbox, consider how content marketing actually works as a kind of digital Swiss Army knife. In the hands of uncoordinated amateurs, it can be a disaster. But for a company that understands its enormous value, it can be used to educate, solve problems, and even influence the sales process.
The Buyer's Journey
In the buyer's journey, a prospect arrives at your website in one of the following stages:
Not everyone comes ready to buy, but if you understand where they are in the journey, you can push them closer.
First, think about why a visitor would make their way to your site. A prospective buyer moves to action when they've encountered a problem that needs a solution. Whether they need a web design refresh, specialized software, new camping gear, or eyelash extensions, they've found a gap between the solution they have now and the one they need. In the awareness stage of a buyer's journey, these prospects have become aware of their problems and they're actively researching options.
To a shopper in the consideration stage who've done their research, their choices are now narrowed down to a few key options, one of which might be your business. They have a clear idea about what they're looking for, have found some companies that provide what they need, and are now trying to decide which one would best help them meet their goals.
In the decision stage, the customer is ready to buy. If your business is the lucky pick, great! You did well. Time to buy a moderately priced box of wine and some cronuts to celebrate.
You don't need dignity when you're a winner.
If you don't make the sale, however, you might want to look into how you can make your process more insightful and effective or risk losing out again later.
It’s very clear that the way you approach a potential client should be different depending not just on their specific needs, but where they are in the buyer's journey. Here's how content marketing can help make that easier.
1. Content Marketing Nurtures Leads
Nurturing a lead through well-planned content marketing is a very useful way to gauge their level of interest and engage them at awareness and consideration stages. For example, if someone visits your website and fills out a form to download content (a free ebook or worksheet, for example -- like the one down below) this creates a new potential lead for your sales team.
Ideally, you would build this lead with strategic follow-up communication either personally or through automated marketing emails. Your communication should speak to their buyer persona and be geared toward solving the pain points that brought them to your website in the first place.
Eyes on the prize, champ.
The same philosophy also applies to prospects you’ve already spoken with. As you uncover challenges, key issues, and goals in these initial conversations, securing that next call and moving them further along the buyer's journey can rely in large part on whether you provide content that helps address their questions or concerns.
This problem-solving approach reiterates that you’re listening and establishes your sales team as experts in helping businesses overcome these challenges. Content marketing helps drive sales by increasing the buyer's perception that your company understands their needs and offers the right solutions to address them.
2. Strategic Content Builds Brand Credibility
Unless you're building affordable unicorn-powered spaceships, chances are your business has some competition. And if you have a lot of competition, trust and credibility are a huge bonus to both search rankings and brand recognition -- both factors that can affect the likelihood of closing sales. Creating useful, insightful graphics and text is just one part of driving sales with content marketing. Being able to back up the quality of your work with client testimonials or case studies can take your credibility to the next level. This is something that buyers look for, so be sure to ask for reviews after completing projects. And track data to learn what content has resonated well with potential customers.
Your blog is also a great place to build trust provided you're writing posts that help your buyer persona. Have your sales team contribute to your company blog (like I'm doing now). This will elevate them as experts and ensure they're more familiar with all the content your company is dishing out. Prospects are more convinced by expert advice over sweeping generalities. Knowledge is power!
3. Excellent Content Boosts Sales
The two points above address using content to help nurture and gain trust, but what about actually using content to close the deal?
Thanks, early '90s Alec Baldwin. A little intense, but we appreciate the passion.
The fact is, the majority of website visitors are not ready to buy yet, so you need to provide value at every step of the buyer's journey in tandem with content marketing. Find a way to influence that prospect even if they're already in the decision stage. Helpful content such as product comparisons, trials, or white papers provide the necessary information to instill confidence in your product or services.
Sales and marketing don't have to be at odds, especially when working together from a coherent and strategic content plan benefits both.
Begin mapping your content to the buyer's journey with our worksheet. Fill out this form to get started.