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Content marketing is an integral facet to acquiring new customers, and by providing relevant, original content that answers the common questions your customers and prospects are asking, you can win the hearts and minds of those interested in your company.
These days, salespeople and marketers are getting more in alignment with each other than ever before in the history of business. And also, smart leaders are realizing that marketing efforts are best driven by sales teams' goals, KPIs, and even certain sales metrics.
“Marketers are focused on branding and lead generation, while salespeople focus on closing the sale and boosting conversion rates. One’s in it for the long haul, while the other is looking for instant gratification.”
But there are certain activities that can help push along alignment between sales and marketing.
In this post, we’ll talk about three ways to use content in order to drive these two teams more effectively in unison to improve customer acquisition goals. When marketing and sales work as one well-oiled machine, it’s magical ROI. But even more so, it’s a better experience for a new prospect — which gives your brand the legs it needs to go from crawling to running full-speed ahead!
Beyond offering content that supports customer goals, here are three detailed approaches to crafting content that improves your top-of-funnel marketing efforts and sales alignment for a customer acquisition strategy that just plain works!
APPROACH #1: Account-Based Marketing Content Strategy
According to MarTech Advisor,
“Account-Based Marketing, or ABM, was one of the hottest buzzwords of 2017…. Not surprisingly, 58 percent of B2B organizations currently employ an ABM strategy and 27 percent plan on doing so in the next six months…. And while ABM is often regarded as a stand-alone discipline separate from the other sales and marketing initiatives being conducted, in 2018, ABM will blend into the day-to-day strategy.”
But even ABM is driven by glorious content.
So what is ABM, and how can content marketing support its goals from a sales perspective? Meaning: how can a strong ABM content strategy push acquisition to greater heights?
According to Forbes (and my favorite definition in the slurry of Googleable definitions):
ABM “is all about shifting your focus from lots of leads to highly targeted accounts that are very specific organizations and companies that are the best possible fit for your product or service.”
Now that we understand ABM, how does content marketing push the needle for it?
Content Marketing is, as explained by Karl Naim, co-founder and CEO at ChefXchange:
“…a long-term strategy with the aim of building a strong relationship with your target audience by providing them with high-quality content that is very relevant, as often as possible. Basically, content marketing is a way to show your customers that you actually care about them, which is not really the case of one-off advertising that just puts a product or service in front of your eyes.”
Combined with an ABM strategy, content marketing presents these highly targeted customers with your brand and content that is relevant to their pain points and needs — for instance, a case study on a similar company that found great success with your product or service, or an e-book based on their website behavior? Are they searching your product pages, support pages or blog posts for specific pieces of content?
Ascertain what they're looking for and then reach out with the right message, tailored to their business model. High-touch mar-sales works! Oftentimes sending a blanket of automated emails to a long list of prospects isn’t very effective.
Recent objective research from Sales For Life notes the following in their latest research findings:
- Close to one million sales professionals will lose their jobs to self-service e-commerce within the next four years.
- Around nine out of 10 of top-level B2B decision-makers simply do not respond to cold outreach.
- 74% of buyers choose the salesperson who was the first to add value and insight.
- Only 1% of calls actually convert to meetings.
- The sad truth: Many B2B organizations still try to sail their ship under these stormy conditions.
Take these findings to heart. Be honest with yourself: are your marketing efforts and sales goals working in synchronicity? By honing in on prospect behavior, providing content that addresses their business goals (not yours!) and addresses these goals at every stage of their buying journey with your product or service, your ABM acquisition efforts will succeed.
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APPROACH #2: Survey Your Longtime Customers
One of the simplest ways to understand how to offer prospects value is to ask your longtime customers what they love, what they don’t really love, and what they want more of from your brand.
Here at Leadfeeder, for instance, we recently surveyed about 20 of our most dedicated users by phone. Of course, we offered them a perk for their time and input. There’s nothing wrong with offering a carrot on a stick because their input not only helps you improve current customer experience, but also improve acquisition efforts.
What we discovered was that our users wanted more personalized tutorial information and step-by-step guides to use all the new and existing features our tool offers — and most importantly, how these features could be applied to their specific job function and business goals. This had been a huge hole in our content strategy so we’re filling this hole with lots more case studies, customer guest bloggers, and product guides.
And for incoming prospects, these more personalized pieces of content will help sell the product more effectively for our sales and customer service teams.
Creating an alignment strategy that focused on customer satisfaction and understanding the why of retention and then using this data to understand the top-of-funnel journey better and how to improve it for prospects was a win-win for both marketing and sales.
This approach was confirmed in Salesforce’s 2017 “State of Marketing” report:
“Among Millennial consumers, 58 percent will share personal data in exchange for product recommendations that meet their needs (as will 52 percent of Gen X consumers). Business buyers also want deeper relationships; 89 percent expect companies to understand their business needs and expectations.”
Last year's Salesforce State of Marketing report showcased more of the same:
- When it comes to markers for success metrics, 35% of surveyed marketers cited customer satisfaction as their leading performance metric. Revenue goals and customer acquisition followed suit in second and third place, respectively.
- One interesting facet of this year’s report discovered that 65% of marketing uses a customer journey approach to understand if their efforts are performing well. Taking the time to really talk with your customers, connect and be authentic as well as offer content that actually works for their needs has a beautiful side effect: increased customer acquisition metrics. And we all know what that translates to…
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APPROACH #3: Measure How Your Sales Teams Are Using Content
So, you’ve discovered ABM and now your sales teams are working to connect with hyper-targeted accounts. You’ve surveyed your existing customers successfully to uncover what they love and want most from you so you can understand how to offer incoming prospects more value from your brand.
You’ve put in all this time and energy (which probably cost you your content budget, yikes!) into developing all these insights. So, what now?
Time to audit your efforts!
“Optimization is key to maintaining the up-front cost of your content ‘investment,’ and it allows B2B organizations to collect metrics that show how content is tied to ROI by demonstrating the impact of a specific content piece on a prospect’s purchase decision.”
Metrics are historically difficult to ascertain for marketers, especially for content.
That’s why Pfannkuch offers some excellent methods to track the ROI of your content strategy that are pretty darn effective:
- “Measure results of content performance at every stage of the purchase process
- Track how your teams use and share content
- Use content as a scoring model to see how certain marketing pieces convert
- With conversion metrics, marketing can pinpoint content gaps and inefficiencies and set clear performance benchmarks
- The best part about this closed-loop approach to content marketing is that you can see how each piece fits together and refills the sales funnel (or not).”
Google Analytics (GA) is a great spot to uncover these metrics as well. For instance, are website visitors downloading a particular gated case study more often than the others? Capitalize on this, and create more content to complement it. You can create custom goal reports in GA to help you see these metrics.
Or are your site visitors reading a particular set of blog posts far more than others? Create more collateral around these topics, and talk to your sales teams.
Sales teams have great insights as to why a prospect or even current customer may be interested in particular types of content. After all, they talk to prospects and customers all day, every day. They have a lot of knowledge in their mental hard drives, so tap into it! Working together will surface insights that surveying and studying analytics reports may never be able to articulate.
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Of course, these three approaches are not the be-all-end-all to mastering a content strategy that improves customer acquisition numbers. But that being said: these three approaches can help you right the ship, as they say, and set you and your sales teams off into the a more strategic, well-defined direction.
As repeated numerous times, marketing and sales work better together. Despite their often very different departmental goals, if marketers and sales agree and align on customer personas, ideal customers to prospect, and metrics for success — beautiful things can happen. Why not give it a shot?