In traditional marketing, much-coveted sales leads were immediately “thrown over the wall” to the sales team, which would then be tasked with following up, qualifying and—hopefully—securing the sale. Today’s marketing mix is vastly different and includes non-traditional forms of marketing, such as content marketing, that have changed the way sales leads are generated.
Today, leads are qualified and prioritized first, long before any engagement with sales personnel. By providing information to buyers as they move through the sales funnel, content marketing helps foster an environment of trust between prospects and the brand. This way, buyers will feel comfortable purchasing from that brand when they are ready to make a buying decision. This process aligns marketing and sales functions.
As a marketer, the types of content you create must reflect the needs of prospects in many different stages of the sales cycle. In the early stages, create content that educates, such as blogs and eBooks. Mid-stage leads are looking for proof of ROI, such as testimonials and case studies. Late-stage leads are looking for reasons why your products and services are better than your competitors. This can come in the form of an offer for a free in-office demo or a sales call to discuss any concerns.
The content you create to engage with your customers and prospects affects demand generation in multiple ways. Let’s take a closer look at how.
For content to help generate leads, it must be well-written, relevant to consumers and support your brand’s business objectives. It also must be promoted effectively to your prospect database, current customers and those in your target demographic across all channels (email, events and social media).
It’s also important to include forms on landing pages that require subscribers to register and provide contact information in order to receive the free content, whether it’s an eBook, whitepaper, article or case study. Without this exchange, content marketing can’t help increase leads. Keep the form as short as possible; asking for too much reduces the number of people viewing your content.
This is all about maintaining, or nurturing, an ongoing relationship or conversation with your prospects. The content you create comes into play here by providing an avenue through which to keep the dialogue going with prospects. Optimize content for lead nurturing by keeping content engaging, visually appealing and easy to digest. As always, make sure the content offers the reader something of value.
Remember the key here is to not come off as pushy in any forms of communications with prospects. If customers feel they are being pressured, you will lose their attention quickly. Use attractive emails to draw leads in, then follow up with more personalized emails as they progress through the sales funnel.
This is the process by which marketing assess and prioritizes the interest of prospects. As sales leads are generated, they are triaged to identify which ones are ready to be passed to the sales department. This assessment may be based on activities that identified them as a lead, such as downloading your content. Leads can then be further segmented by demographics or behavior after converting on your website. Scoring is based on the level of interest, sales readiness and other determining factors agreed upon by both sales and marketing.
This process is crucial to demand generation because, according to the MarketingSherpa’s 2012 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report, on average, only 27 percent of new leads are sales ready. You'll want to identify the most promising leads before a competitor snatches them up. To do so, you can use content that serves as a telltale (product-centric content toward the bottom of the funnel is a good indicator), or you can review how your best leads behaved in the past and which content they downloaded, then use that as a guide for scoring future leads.
Effective lead scoring means passing fewer, yet higher-quality, leads to sales, which translates to higher sales conversion rates and, ultimately, improved revenue.
Effective content marketing can go a long way toward generating demand for your brand. It requires, however, the creation of multiple pieces of content that appeal and engage with customers and prospects at many different stages of the buying cycle. It’s not a one-size-fits-all proposition. It entails knowing who your prospects are, as well as where they are in their buying journey so you can provide the appropriate content for them when and where they need it.
Barb Schmitz is professional writer with more than 20 years of experience writing for B2B and B2C publications and web sites. She served as an editor on Computer-Aided Engineering magazine for more than 10 years before starting her own PR/freelance writing business in 2000. Her expertise includes interviewing, researching and writing whitepapers, blogs, eBooks, case studies, and feature articles.