How to Apply Content Marketing to All Stages of the Sales Cycle
- Published in Demanding Views
By Israel Martinez, Product Manager, DNN
You want a shorter sales cycle and your customers want a shorter buying cycle. No one benefits from prolonging the process. But if your goals are aligned, why is it that things seem to be going in the opposite direction?
- According to the International Data Corporation (IDC), 56% of the buying process is spent searching for educational content;
- IDG reported that 86% of B2B buyers say that the content created by marketing departments is not useful, relevant or aligned with their needs;
- A study from Forrester says that 76% of buyers choose vendors that can have intelligent conversations and deliver effective value messages; and
- Sirius Decisions reported that the number one sales inhibitor is an organization’s inability to communicate the value of their products.
(Note: The above statistics are from this blog post.)
So where is the disconnect? Buyers want to make informed decisions and very few marketing departments deliver the right content during the buying process decision points, so buyers struggle.
The solution is to provide content throughout the sales cycle. Many content marketers use content for awareness, along with top of the funnel lead generation. While good content is one of the best ways of attracting the right traffic to your website, there is no reason to end the process there. Think about producing similar content that addresses the middle and bottom stages of the sales funnel.
Top of the Funnel
The most common goal for content marketing is awareness and lead generation (top of the funnel). This is the beginning of the relationship with a potential customer. In this stage, you offer free, timely, engaging, and interesting content. In some cases, you “gate” the content, which means that you provide it to the reader in exchange for their contact information.
To create effective “top of the funnel” content, you need to have a definition of your ideal prospect and be familiar with their pain points. You need to create content for them without a big sell message, you need to educate to build trust, and each piece of content you create needs to be done in a way that it leads the prospect to the next “aha” moment.
Middle of the Funnel
If your organization uses a marketing automation solution, you probably know that this is a very effective way to nurture leads that are not ready to buy. But without content, it is going to be a real challenge to get the most out of your messages to your prospects, and the more content you have, the more options you’ll have to share with them.
Leads that are still in the nurturing stage are usually looking for information to move to the next stage of the cycle, and being able to share your own content gives you an opportunity to reach out to them and help them make a decision. At the same time, you are building trust and engagement.
Bottom of the Funnel
At this stage of the funnel, it’s likely that prospects have engaged with your sales reps. In this stage, potential buyers need clear evidence that your product or service is going to meet their needs, so you have to be careful with the content you make available to your sales reps for them to share.
For “bottom of the funnel” leads that have “gone cold” (i.e. they have not replied back to your sales rep), new content is a great way for Sales to re-engage with them.
Be sure to work closely with your sales team. You get to hear the problems, requests and questions they get from prospects first-hand, giving you great ideas on new content that you should be creating.
The utility of your content doesn’t need to end when a prospect becomes a customer. Your content can be used to inform customers about other products or new features, and it can also help them get the most out of your product. The end result is not only a more satisfied customer, but reduced support calls allowing them to focus.
Happy and informed customers can be great assets for your organization. In this world where everyone is connected, they can be great advocates for your company. They can validate your message by creating content themselves, or by sharing the content you create. In the end, they have more credibility than you.
While content is key for lead generation, you can extend its life by reusing it at the other stages of the buying cycle. The results will be:
- A higher ROI of your content;
- A more empowered sales team;
- A happier and more focused support team; and
- A group of advocates who will validate your message and recommend your products or services.
Israel Martinez, Product Manager, has been part of the Product Management Team at DNN for more than three years. He has been part of the evolution of the product from a platform to business solutions. He holds a bachelor of science in mechanical engineering and master’s degrees in e-Business and software systems.