How to use content marketing to sell more (A guide for inside sales teams)
Content marketing is more than just…
- Building brand awareness
- Top of funnel traffic that might convert
- A tool for likes and shares on social media
- Sales enablement assets to keep in your back pocket
In fact, content marketing has the potential to become your number one marketing channel in terms of conversions, if you’re willing to invest the time. And that's even more true during the COVID-19 crisis, and its economic aftermath.
Brands who had to pull back their paid media spend over the last few weeks are learning a hard lesson in the importance of organic and owned channels.
An investment in content is like an investment in the financial markets.
Fortune favors the patient. As Warren Buffet once wisely said:
Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.
Why am I so confident in that?
Look no further than the Close blog. From the beginning, Steli and the team decided to go all-in on content. The CRM industry is full of big spenders in the advertising world, so Close focused their entire marketing strategy on content and it paid off. When they published that guide, 60% of all free trials were coming through content.
Great content can become:
- A lure at the top of your funnel to help with lead generation
- Material for your nurture sequences and prospect conversations
- Sales enablement assets for your entire sales team to use
- Resources your current customers can use to grow their business and build an even deeper relationship with your company
In the 2019 B2B Buyers Survey Report from DemandGen, respondents were asked to rate how important a handful of statements were when choosing one company over the competition. When it came to content, 94% of companies surveyed said high-quality content that was easy to consume played a role in their choosing of one vendor over another:
In this post, I’m going to share a 3-step content marketing process you (and every inside sales team) can use to fill your pipeline and nurture relationships with all of your current prospects:
Let’s jump in.
1. Research what pain points are keeping your ideal buyers up at night
First things first, you need to understand what problem you're trying to solve for your ideal customers with the content asset you’re planning to create.
Creating without any real direction on the problems you’re focusing on can lead to content no one asked for, no one’s looking for, and no one really needs. This means the time you invest into creating will result in very little ROI (if any).
Here’s where to start:
- Jot down the questions that you’re constantly asked during sales calls
- Add the most common pain points that come up during those calls
- Write down which features of your product have prospects eyes light up most on calls
- Talk to the rest of your sales team and ask them to do the same
- Compare your notes to any documented buyer persona research your company has already conducted to look for trends
- Jump into popular forums and communities your buyers are visiting to search for popular topics and questions—start with Quora, Slack channels, Facebook Groups, etc.
What type of content has done the best amongst SaaS brands since the start of the COVID-19 crisis?
We looked at 1,900 blog posts from the top SaaS brands and found that only 8% of the articles published since February referenced or mentioned COVID-19.
For the most part...
SaaS marketers have kept shipping content.
Some SaaS companies wrote more than 10 posts in the matter of weeks referencing the 'new normal' and the crisis as a whole. The most common strategy for brands publishing 5+ posts about COVID-19 was the act of repurposing old content about working from home, managing remotely and tailoring it to the current situation and crisis.
These posts did okay.
But the content that did the best in terms of generating shares, coverage and backlinks were those from companies announcing relief and support for others.
Once you have this information written down, start to prioritize.
Which challenges are common across the board? Which questions come up for every sales rep on your team? What pain points are the most pressing?
2. Create content that helps your buyer see the light at the end of the tunnel
With a prioritized list of pain points and challenges you can answer on hand, it’s time to create.
Before you open up a blank Google Doc and write or turn on your camera and record—I highly, highly recommend building an outline.
Building your outline
Starting with an outline lets you plan how your content will flow together and how you’ll actually be addressing the pain points and challenges you’re focused on. Without one, you run the risk of aimlessly rambling on and on and missing the mark entirely.
Don’t panic though, this outline doesn’t need to be some professional-quality document you’d be proud enough of to show your high school English teacher. In fact, it should be the opposite.
- Scribble a rough sequencing of your ideas in a Google Doc
- Add bullet points to jot down what you plan to cover in each section
- Copy/paste any links and resources you want to reference
… and you’re set.
Creating your content
Now that you have an outline to reference, you no longer have to start from the dreaded blank document. You already know exactly what key points you want to hit on throughout your content. All that’s left is expanding on those key points and bringing your content to life.
This is where the process will look a little different for everyone, and will depend on how big your team is.
You may decide to record a briefing video to send to a marketer on your staff so they can lead the content creation, you may want to jump right in yourself. Regardless, be sure to use your outline as a guide to keep you on track along the way.
And before you hit publish, make sure you have a system in place to generate leads from your content. Give your readers an action to take…
- Download a checklist
- Request a demo
- Start a free trial
- Join a newsletter list
- Download a template
… Whatever action best fits with the content, make sure it’s clear. If you’re not putting a call to action in front of the people visiting your content, you’re missing out on results—simple as that.
3. Distribute your content far and wide
Here’s a scenario I see far too often with content…
- You invest hours into researching
- You build an outline for your content
- You draft the content (writing the blog post or a video script)
- You send it to a few people on your team to review
- You spend a bunch of time editing & getting the content “right”
- You upload to YouTube or your website, hit publish and...
That, my friend, is something I like to call the Publish & Pray Method. You create a great piece of content, hit publish, and hope for the best.
No time spent working to get your content in front of the people who need it.
No effort placed on getting actual, tangible results from it.
No promotion whatsoever.
The bottom line is this:
Hitting the publish button is NOT (and I cannot stress this enough) the final step.
You should be spending just as much time distributing your content as you did creating it. If you spent 10 hours creating, spend 10 more hours promoting it.
If you don’t actively invest your time in distributing your content, the ROI on those 10 hours you spent bringing it to life will be minimal. And if you don’t know where to start, here are a few of my favorite distribution tactics:
- Share it on company social accounts (simply, but effective)
- Share it from your own personal LinkedIn account
- Ask your sales team to share it on their LinkedIn accounts as well
- Share it with your current prospects (also makes for a great touchpoint)
- Work it into your existing onboarding and email nurture sequences
- Share it with your current customers and users
- Find related questions to share it through on Quora
- Mention any industry experts and companies you reference in your post when sharing on Twitter and LinkedIn
- Email those same companies with a link to a Tweet or LinkedIn post they can share
- Sponsor a popular industry newsletter to feature your new content
And if you’re looking for even more distribution channels and tactics to experiment with, I’ve also created a list of over 100 content distribution tactics that you can download for free.
Over to you
The time to get started is right now.
Jump to the research phase and start jotting down the challenges and pain points you hear about the most in your sales conversations. Think about all the questions you get asked daily that a great blog post could answer for you.
… Extra emphasis on the distribution.
Looking for more resources to help you crush your quotas?
Check out Close’s entire library of resources for inside sales teams. You can grab everything — from email templates to cold call scripts, to customer research guides, and more.