Content marketing and selling with insights are the latest concepts for adapting to this change and remaining competitive. The basic premise is that, now more than ever, companies need to become a source of ideas and insights for their customers to add value while building credibility and awareness of how they help them. Your sales and marketing teams need to be coordinated in how they engage prospects, convert them to paying customers, and then maintain the connection as a long-term relationship by sharing relevant content and information that interests them and helps them in their business.
Here’s a 10,000-foot view of what you need to do and how to get started.
1. Be clear about what your organization does better than anyone else.
Why do your clients want or need what you sell? Why do they buy from you instead of your competition? Be very honest when assessing the answer to these questions. Once you’ve identified what makes you better and different, don’t keep it a secret! Bake it into your messaging and marketing in order to assist sales reps in making successful pitches.
2. Identify issues that are relevant to your buyers.
Remember to always view the world from the perspective of your buyers. What is new or changing and how do these changes present opportunities or threats? What are the trending topics in your buyer’s business? How can you help your buyer solve or navigate the challenge? What are the consequences of the buyer not taking action?
Cataloging these issues is best done in a cross-functional team with representation from sales, marketing, and product management. LinkedIn groups are a terrific source to mine for subject matter experts (SMEs). For each business unit, have your team identify ten issues along with solutions and consequences for each. Capture these in a spreadsheet for future reference.
3. Create insightful content that addresses these issues.
Ask your marketing team to find SMEs who can go a level or two deeper to really help your buyers understand the issues, solutions, and consequences more clearly. SMEs can come from your company, but they can also come from outside your company, such as customers, authors, consultants, and researchers.
Since SMEs might not want to take the time to write an original piece, have your marketers interview them. They should ask the SME a few basic questions related to the issue and then let the SME talk about what they are passionate about. It is beneficial to provide the SME with a few questions in advance so that they can prepare, but avoid scripting responses. These conversations should be recorded and transcribed. Then, they can be edited into helpful articles and guides for your prospective buyers. Lists and how-to articles tend to attract readers. Make sure you budget for professional editors and proofreaders — they are worth their weight in gold!
4. Create a platform to host this insightful content.
Years ago, this would require building a website parallel to your corporate site, but blogging platforms such as WordPress have made this process easier and faster yet able to work in concert with your main site. What’s most important is to create a central content repository online where you can post content easily. Marketing should own the platform and post all content. IT should support Marketing by handling site hosting and security-related issues. Invest some money to make the site attractive, professional, and aligned with your brand. The platform should also enable sharing content through social media channels such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.
5. Ensure your sales reps have clearly identified their ideal prospects.
OK, you have great content and a solid platform on which to host your content. Now you need to start thinking about distributing content. This starts by clearly understanding why customers buy what you sell and how the buying decision gets made. This will help you identify who you need to sell to and who you will want to reach as part of your selling with insights efforts. Your sales reps and account managers should clearly identify the companies and contacts they want to reach, and start building contact lists. Quality of contacts should rule quantity — more isn’t better if they’re not your target buyers or influencers. Again, LinkedIn is a great resource, and your marketing team can help as needed.
6. Help your sales reps to share insightful content with their ideal prospects.
Prospect outreach can occur at two levels:
- Marketing can push messages out to mass audiences. In this case, it can be beneficial to repurpose blog articles as an e-mail newsletter and create weekly or monthly digests to promote topics that might have been overlooked the first time around.
- Sales reps can send content out on a highly selective basis to specific targets or smaller groups. These e-mails should be personalized to not only acknowledge the recipient but also emphasize why the content is important to their business (“Jim, I know that you’ve been dealing with this issue and thought this could help.”).
Every blog platform should have “subscribe by e-mail” functionality, and every sales rep should subscribe to the blog. This way, when new content gets posted, your sales reps will be alerted. This provides the sales rep with a continuous stream of new ideas to engage clients or prospects that they may want to share, and it makes the sales rep aware of what their clients or prospects are reading or may have read from your company.
Sales reps should use the social sharing widgets to thoughtfully distribute content to clients and prospects. They should frame the article in the context of the buyer’s needs and stage in the sales process. Their goal should be to create “Markets of one,” making each reader feel like the sales rep is speaking directly to them and not a mass audience.
7. Teach your sales reps to make the connection between your insights and your ability to help a prospect.
This is where the rubber really hits the road and where most insight-selling efforts fall flat. Your sales reps need to understand what they need to do and say to get the prospect to move forward in the buying process. This is dependent on an acute understanding of where the buyer is in their process and their ability to create a compelling value proposition that they can fulfill. Don’t expect that they can make this leap all by themselves.
Moreover, you should have a clearly articulated messaging platform for strategic dialogue with clients that is understood and practiced consistently to avoid having your sales reps make it up or avoid it all together. (This should link back to the first step of identifying what makes you better and different.) Your sales managers need to be able to coach the behaviors necessary for success, and your marketing team needs to be aligned with and supportive of the strategy to bring a buyer to the next step.
Manage behaviors to execute the change
As with any change, the key to success is in your organization’s ability to execute the transformation from where you are today and where you need to go. The thought of driving that change down to the individual behaviors of your sales reps and managers can be daunting, but it is essential to keeping up with and taking advantage of the market forces that drive your ability to compete. If you would like to learn more about how to prepare your organization for such a change, we would be pleased to talk.