No matter how we really think about it, in the end, content marketing is about filling the cash register with dollar bills. To that end, we need to consider ways that content marketing can drive sales.
And, naturally, more sales are the goals for both B2B and B2C companies. If you look at the image on the right, the first goal is website visitors. Then sales, lead quality, conversion, etc. Basically, people want more traffic and sales, sales, sales.
The problem is, how do marketers tie their content into business goals and revenue? It’s real easy to talk about getting shares, getting website traffic, getting eyeballs, getting buzz.
However how do we all convince executives that content marketing is actually helping to ring the cash register, too?
Here are some fantastic ways that content marketing can drive sales.
Helps build trust
It’s one thing for the salesperson to make a claim during a sales meeting, however it’s another thing when they have substantial content to back it up. Sometimes everything sounds good coming from a salesperson, however it’s hard to tell if he or she is representing the true philosophies and practices of their company.
People naturally are on guard when talking to a salesperson, because in the back of their head they know that some salespeople view prospects as slabs of meat ready to be chewed and swallowed. However, quality content validates what the salesperson is saying, and supports the story they are telling.
Once the prospect understands that story and believes that it is true, the more likely they are to trust the salesperson. Images of chewed meat will be replaced by images of warm fires on a winter day and hot cups of cocoa … or something like that.
Establishes thought leadership and credibility
If your ongoing content efforts are answering the right questions and solving the right problems for the right personas, the salespeople won’t even have to sell the prospect on your company. Prospects will already know the legitimacy of the company, and expect to get the right solutions.
It moves the conversation from, “We’re the experts in bobble heads because …” to, “As you know, we’re the experts in bobble heads, and we’re going to take care of all your bobble head needs.”
The conversation will then focus on the specific challenges at hand, and the solutions that will address those challenges. (Did you notice how merely mentioning bobble heads has you nodding your head in agreement to this section?)
Content marketing may be your only chance
Estimates vary, however somewhere between 57–90% of the buying process is done before salespeople are even involved. That means without content, the sales team frequently loses out on opportunities without even knowing it.
What you don’t know can hurt you. Salespeople may or may not notice the lead deficiency that a lack of content causes, however they definitely notice when a lead comes in because of content marketing.
That piece of content will become their best friend because the leads it generates will be better informed, further down the sales cycle and already speaking the right language — all positive signs for the salesperson.
Increases the effectiveness of sales conversations
Whether it’s an infographic, or a video, or a slide deck, quality content can help improve the effectiveness of a sales conversation. For those prospects that aren’t familiar with your company or its reputation, sharing content is a quick way to build your credibility and trustworthiness right off the bat.
And for salespeople stressing about saying just the right thing, the content can do some of the talking for them, allowing them to focus on reading the prospect and their surroundings. On the flip side, sending a salesperson to a sales meeting without quality content is like picking up a date in a crappy car. They better be good looking!
Matches content to the sales stage
Is the prospect in the awareness stage? Or are they closer to the purchase stage? Wherever they are in the buying cycle, good content can help move them down the funnel. An effective content mix will include different types of content for each stage of the buying cycle.
The more specific the content to their current questions, the more effective it will be. You’ll be answering their questions before they know they have them.
This is roughly the sales equivalent of finishing your date’s sentence. Dates that include the finishing off each other’s sentences have a 55% marriage conversion rate (all numbers approximate).
Shortens your sales cycle
Unanswered questions and concerns puts the sales process directly into the spin cycle, which stalls everything. When you come into the sales cycle with ready-made answers, the prospect runs out of excuses to not close the deal.
Here’s a chance to prove that content marketing can drive sales. Nothing makes salespeople happier than (relatively) quick sales.
On the other hand, when you can provide all the right solutions and they’re still not moving down the funnel, you can know sooner that they’re just not a great fit. This is obviously not ideal, however all good salespeople know that the next best answer after “yes” is “no.” While “maybe” is definitely the worst.
Gains favour within prospect’s organisation
Another pitfall to the sales cycle is turning the keys over to your prospect, and trusting them to sell the rest of their company on your solution. Sharable content can be so much more effective than your prospects recounting of their chicken scratch notes to their boss.
As discussed previously, quality content adds credibility to what your prospect is telling their colleagues. This fills in the gaps between what they remember from the meeting and what you offer.
By merely having the content to share gives your contact that much more confidence in pitching your solution. Giving your contact quality content to share with their team is like leaving a mini-salesperson behind to help close the deal. Kind of a horcrux situation, however in a good way.
Creates customer loyalty
Once the deal is closed, your customers should turn into promoters. And taking the lessons we learned in the last section, we can know that quality content gives those promoters confidence to refer you to others and to keep coming back again and again.
Now that they know you are the thought leader in your industry, and now that they believe you provide the best solutions, they wouldn’t dare leave you.
Gives salespeople tools and resources
Quality content marketing bridges the gap between sales and marketing better than almost any other solution. It allows marketers to control their story in a way that is truly helpful to their audiences (read: drives results and is meaningful).
And equally as important, quality content marketing gives salespeople much needed tools and resources, keeping them in the conversation and ultimately winning deals and earning money.