The problematic rivalry between marketing and sales teams feels almost biblically ancient. I’ve seen CEOs begrudgingly decide which departments play the roles of Cain and Abel; hopelessly praying that the two blood rivals can eventually settle their differences.
This is compounded by the fact that sales and marketing departments are becoming increasingly co-dependent. I believe a content-driven sales strategy is the uniting factor that can put this rivalry to rest. Here’s why.
What is a Content-Driven Sales Strategy?
We must first acknowledge that more than 53% of sales teams claim buyers ask for more justification before making a purchase decision. A content-driven sales strategy utilizes content to fulfill that ask.
A highly valuable, targeted, and consistent content builds your brand narrative, generates more leads, and improves your conversion volume. A content-driven sales strategy ultimately focuses on delivering value by solving your audience’s major pain points before asking for anything in return.
Content can further unite sales and marketing teams by:
- Educating internal team members on your core customers, product offerings, and messaging through presentation decks, pdfs, videos, and one-sheets (see content types section).
- Providing a foundational messaging framework to build a consistent brand voice across all your customer touchpoints
The Foundational Research Phase
Every successful business has a thorough and ongoing understanding of their customers.
Thorough means picking up your phone, putting your biases and assumptions of the market aside, and calling your customers directly.
Ongoing means having adequate feedback loops in place to continually listen to what your customers have to say.
You can then quote your customers to craft your targeted marketing and sales messaging, and identify your product-market fit with minimal implicit biases. Use their struggles to understand where your product is strong and where it falls short. Don’t leave it up to chance or make it a guessing game!
Pro tip: Streamline this process with Gong.io (not a sponsor!) to record, transcribe, and analyze all your calls.
Your conversations will unearth real, tangible quotes, insights, and statistics, that’ll guide your content and sales strategies. These golden nuggets will shape your core personas, sales messaging, and content topics that your potential customers actually care about.
What Questions Should We Ask Our Customers?
Every piece of content needs to have a clearly defined audience in mind. Naturally, the best place to start is to build out your core personas. Here are the questions you should ask your customers to paint a full picture of what your target market looks like:
- What is your job role, title, or function?
- What is your industry? How long have you worked in this industry?
- What are the top three skills you utilize in this role?
- How is your team structured?
Objectives and Goals:
- What frustrates you most about your job?
- What is one thing that could help make your job easier today?
- What is keeping you from addressing your stressors?
- How do you evaluate what tools to utilize on your team?
- What role do you play in the buying process?
- What are some obstacles you may face when looking to adopt a new solution?
- Who needs to sign off on the process?
- Who may influence your decision making?
- What channels do you most frequently use to access content?
- Do you do most of your research at work or at home?
- How often do you use social media? Which ones do you prefer?
- Are you subscribed to newsletters? How often do you prefer to receive them?
- Are there any influencers or channels that you enjoy following?
Advanced Research Strategies
Now that you have the personas down, here are alternative channels you should consider alternative ways to gather research around your target audience.
- Social listening: utilize tools such as Buzzsumo, CrowdTangle, and Keyhole to keep a pulse on what people are saying about you.
- Industry reports: consider market reports around your industry from trusted sources such as Warc, eMarketer, and Mintel.
- NPS reports: Ask your current customers to rate the likelihood of them referring your product or service to a friend on a scale from 1-10. Follow up on the really high and really low scores to find your biggest flaws and strengths.
- Product usage reports: Product analytics tools like Totango can provide in-depth product usage data to see what features your customers are utilizing most.
Understanding the Content-Driven Sales Funnel
No matter how appealing your golden fishing net may look, it’s foolish for you to expect fish to jump in it. Similarly, you have to let go of the “build it and they will come mentality” and rather think strategically about building a pipeline of potential customers.
A funnel begins with the idea that a giant pool of potentially interested outsiders subsists somewhere in your universe. With the limited bandwidth at your disposal, you have to find a way to narrow down that pool, and siphon out those most likely to eventually become a customer.
This is often done through a qualification process (such as company size, industry, budgets) that narrows down your pool of potential customers. You may do so by providing pertinent content that help solve your market’s needs.
This could be in the form of SEO-optimized blog posts, interesting PR plays, social media, infographics, podcasts, and YouTube videos.
Then you can offer relevant ebooks, whitepapers, courses, case studies, and webinars in return for their contact information.
Now you have a pool of sales-qualified leads, who trust you and understand that you can help them improve their lives. You stay top of mind, they know your business, and closing the sale becomes easier than ever.
Yes, this oversimplified, but paints a picture of how content can provide tremendous value for both marketing and sales processes.
What are the types of sales content?
Now that you’re sold on adopting a content-driven sales strategy, let’s dig into the content categories.
Attract: Top of Funnel Content
Blog Posts: Create original and relevant blog posts that help solve your target audience’s core challenges. Ensure you’re following SEO best-practices to build relevant traffic organically.
Social Media: Whether you’re working with influencers, sharing helpful resources, or driving interesting conversations, social media can be a powerful tool to directly communicate with your audience and build your brand presence.
Podcasts: Storytelling is your brand’s key differentiator. Podcasts can help you develop a unique voice, and deliver high-impact stories around your company’s mission. Inviting guests from your target companies may be an effective cold outreach strategy.
Videos: YouTube is the world’s 2nd largest search engine and there’s plenty of eyeballs to go around. Video provides an entirely new medium for you to communicate with your audience in creative ways. Don’t sleep on TikTok, either.
Convert: Middle of Funnel Content
Downloadable lead magnets: whitepapers, ebooks, and guides can provide in-depth strategies, case studies, and educational tools paired with visual aids to help improve the lives of your target customer.
Industry Reports: An easy way to establish yourself as a categorical leader is to publish annual ‘state of the industry’ reports with original, thoroughly researched data that help high-level executives run their businesses.
Case Studies: Success stories can help your prospects with relatable challenges paint a clearer, confident picture of how they can succeed with your business.
Competitive Battle Cards: Thoroughly research competitive analyses can equip your sales team to help clearly differentiate yourselves from your competition without batting an eye.
Newsletters: An owned audience is the most valuable, rather than building your business on rented land (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter), where your reach can be stripped away at an instant. The Morning Brew, the Skimm, and Robinhood Snacks has proved that email is in fact one of the strongest content distribution channels today.
Webinars: One of the most effective sales mediums over the years have been webinars. A class-like environment establishes you as an expert, and allows you to listen to what your audience has to say in return.
Close: Bottom of the Funnel Content
Testimonials: Success stories from highly recognizable clients with tangible results can help your potential clients visualize their success with you.
Demo Decks: A well-designed, optimized, and thoughtfully crafted demonstration experience can be the difference between a lousy and an effective conversion rate.
Product Sheets: A concise rundown of your business’ mission, goals, product, and features equips your sales and marketing teams with effective messaging across every touchpoint with your potential customers.
Delight: Beyond the Funnel
Loyalty Programs: build brand evangelists by rewarding fidelity to your business. Remember, it’s always cheaper to retain a customer than to attain a new one.
Exclusive Customer Newsletters: Exclusive customer newsletters can help your customers better utilize your products and services by informing them on important business updates or highlighting underutilized products or features.
User-Generated Content: Quote your customers in blog posts, retweet the photo of their new puppy, and make sure your best customers are heard and appreciated.
Want to Adopt a Content-Driven Sales Strategy?
You’re in luck, because we’re content specialists who do that kind of stuff. What are you waiting for? Contact us for a free consultation today!