If moving a prospect to a sale takes 10 steps, buyers are already on step seven before they even come in contact with your company. That’s a serious game-changer for marketing managers and CMOs who are accustomed to luring prospects to their website for content and information. This means that it’s no longer enough to have a great website: now that the entire web is one big library, with everything served up equally, you have to go outside your own website and provide great content in places where you have less control, hoping to drive what is now called inbound marketing leads.
There are critical new questions for marketing professionals that are being driven by this new reality: what can you offer prospects to make sure they’re informed appropriately on your product or service while self-educating on the web; and what will encourage them to engage with you further? The answer in both instances is high-quality content aided by marketing technology.
One of the great things about content marketing is that it drives small quantities of inquiries long after the initial spike, regardless of your budget. You used to have enormous online ad-buying and search word budgets to drive people to your site; if you stopped paying for those ads and words, you essentially disappeared from the web. With content marketing – blogs, articles, social media, video, podcasts– the content stays posted regardless of your budget, driving inbound leads for years. You have a compounding effect of material that you’ve written months or years ago that are still ranking well in search, being shared in social, or linked to from other places on the web.
There are few things more annoying than receiving irrelevant content. When it comes to successful content marketing, it’s all about timing. If a buyer is just realizing that they have a problem, they will feel overwhelmed and put off by receiving an in-depth white paper on a technical product. Marketing technology that reveals the source of the lead allows you to granularly segment your database and tailor the content of your next communication. An automation system will record from the content’s landing page that the prospect has received it, tracking their progress through the sales cycle and ensuring that when your sales rep finally talks with them, they know what topics have been covered. Marketing technology also helps with progressive profiling, which allows you to ask a few questions to get the lead into the database. You are able to then ask additional questions each time they ask for content, gradually building a full lead profile. When armed with all this information, your outreach becomes more personalized and, in a way, more respectful. This is important because one of the fundamental tenets of inbound marketing is that you attract people by being genuinely helpful instead of interrupting them with advertisements. It’s better for your buyers and it’s a more cost effective marketing strategy because you’re not broadly blasting messages that aren’t appropriate for the buyer’s position in the sales cycle.
Marketing managers need to invest in professional writers to generate content. Rather than spending an overwhelming majority of your marketing budget on advertising, spend more of it on people and agencies that can help you create content. Sounds simple, but it’s a huge challenge for marketing managers. Content needs to be high-quality, objective material on buyer pain points or new market trends rather than all about you and your product, especially for attracting new leads.
Some marketing automation systems have social sharing built in but even if you have to use an additional product, actively promote your content on your social marketing channels. You should also set aside part of your marketing budget to join sites where you pay to post material. This content should be a key offer in lead-generation campaigns; and be sure to make it available via email to your in-house list, doling it out appropriately for the buyer’s position in the sales cycle. Incorporating content marketing into your digital marketing and social media strategy will help build your authority in the marketplace, grow your prospect base, and move warm leads closer to a sale.
Don’t stop nurturing or informing as soon as you close the sale. Think about the full marketing funnel and what value your content can bring to existing buyers who might be ready for an upgrade, cross-sale or up-sale. With a marketing automation system, you can apply the same method — profiling, segmenting, and nurturing — to your existing buyers that you apply to your prospects. And your buyers may also become content creators for you, penning blog posts or success stories that they then share themselves as they become brand advocates.
Here’s the good news: you can re-purpose content. You can take an eBook and turn it into a podcast. You can take a podcast and turn it into a SlideShare or a communication for an online forum. You can take a white paper and cut it up into blog posts, or create a quick video with the expert you interviewed for the white paper. And with marketing technology, you can take all those materials and cue them up, ready to broadcast in a cadence. You can push out social messages and schedule them on different platforms, optimizing the reach of each platform. You can also tag all the different content on a particular topic and make that part of a marketing campaign, and then see how that campaign performs overall.
Content marketing is a powerful tool and when combined with marketing technology can make a significant difference in the new in-bound marketing reality.
This article was inspired by my “Moneyball for Marketing” podcast with Mike Volpe, HubSpot CMO.
Originally published with CMS Wire