Fire (Most of) Your Sales Team – Get Inbound With Content Marketing

Okay, straight-up firing most of your sales team might be a bit harsh, but it caught your eye, didn’t it?

The fact of the matter is that about 80% of your sales cycle can be covered with content marketing, meaning that the money you spend on sales staff could remain in your wallet or be spent elsewhere (such as further developing that solid content strategy).

But what would sales do, then?

No one will deny that the sales staff plays an important role in business. If you were to utilize content marketing for most of your efforts, your sales staff’s primary role would be to talk to prospects who are close to buying, as well as to be available to answer questions as soon as a lead has one. Sales would need to be familiar with the content so they could also point leads in the direction of more information that they might find useful.

And contrary to the beliefs of some, the sales funnel can still work when content marketing is fueling it.

Commenting on a graphic that Adam Japko used to explain content’s role in Internet marketing, Chris Vaughn notes that the top of the funnel includes proprietary content, which is an excellent way to show a site visitor who comes to your page via Google, say, what you’ve got to offer.

One way of doing this? Offer the visitor something for free. We know that, from a marketing psychology perspective, this type of content helps to convert all those visitors to leads.

“An offer gives your web visitor a chance to become more educated about your service,” Vaughn says in a post for Digital Sherpa.  “THIS IS NOT an opportunity to sell the product to the web visitors. New visitors do not want to be sold something during their first touch with your business. They are there to compare and learn. A top of the funnel offer should educate or help the visitor to better understand what they came looking for when they searched for content like yours.”

This type of content includes the calls to action that we’ve all undoubtedly seen before – and with good reason. They work! You know how it is. You search for information and a blog post shows up high in the results. It sounds interesting, so you click on it and skim through. At the bottom of the post, a graphic presents you with a call to action: a free whitepaper or guide, or maybe a webinar.

Whatever the offer is, it’s designed to move you further through the funnel. If the information in the post was useful to you, you’ll click on the offer and on to the middle you go.

This conversion tactic of turning Web traffic into leads can work for your business, too. Instead of spending your resources making the hard sell, aim to educate instead. A free offer for solid content shows your new visitors that you care about helping them; not just collecting a paycheck.

Once you convert that visitor to a lead, the type of content shifts a bit. As you create a customer profile, keep in mind what kind of content brought that lead to you in the first place, and nurture it with other relevant content they might find useful.

Your content marketing strategy should include a range of material that runs the gamut from introductory to advanced. Take a page from HubSpot‘s book here: they create content for the new marketer and the more experienced marketer – and everyone in between. No matter what level you’re at, HubSpot has something that you’re going to find useful. There’s something for everyone, and the best part is that it’s free. Their content converts visitors to leads. At this point, the email offers begin and they work to nurture those leads through more interesting, informative, and engaging content.

No sales team calling the leads at home saying, “Are you ready to buy yet? How ’bout now? Now? How about…. now?”

This surely isn’t to say that sales is dead or that your sales team is irrelevant. Of course not. Where sales really comes in is after that middle part; after the lead has been nurtured for a while.

As the late Trey Pennington noted, sales needs to be there whenever the lead is ready to talk.

But won’t this mean that sales will have to have an understanding of content marketing? Well, yes.

And you know what that means? If you can repurpose your sales team (in a sense) to also manage some of your content marketing, you know who’s saving money this year? Yep, that’s you.

Will this idea be popular with everyone? Of course not.

But the days of one-way outbound marketing are largely behind us. Content marketing helps attract potential customers to you so that you can interact with them, build relationships, and educate them. Content marketing means that you aren’t just a marketer anymore; you’re a publisher and a teacher. Customers much prefer this method to cold-calls at dinner time or mailers they never end up reading.

So optimize your content. Let potential customers find you. Let them love you. Let them come to you when they’re ready. In the mean time, keep giving them the content that they want. You can’t afford not to.

 

As a potential customer or a content marketer, what ideas do you have for using content marketing to move through the sales funnel?

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Renee is a writer currently living in Central Pennsylvania (whatever you've heard is probably true). In addition to writing for CEM, she serves as the Managing Editor for Business 2 Community and pursues her dream of once again renting her own apartment (preferably in Philadelphia), if only to house her ever-growing collection of books. She received a BA in English from Susquehanna University and an MA in English from George Mason. She's still waiting for someone to write a song about her life so she can just quote the lyrics for her author bios. Catch up with her on Twitter , LinkedIn, or reneedecoskey.com.

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Comments

  1. How insightful Renee. Thanks for the link!
    Chris Vaughn was just talking about…Truth in Online Content MarketingMy Profile

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