How long is your company’s sales process?
Weeks? Months? Years?
The longer your prospect spends from the moment they discover you to buying, the more opportunities there are to lose them.
And in a world full of rivals, distractions, and changing priorities, you need to be active to help move them down the sales funnel to becoming a client.
Content marketing is an essential part of that process. It can make the difference between a lost sale and an engaged, educated, motivated lead who is 99% of the way in their mind to buying.
Who should read this blog?
If your customers buy your product or service after a quick Google search, you can stop reading now.
The likelihood is that your customers understand their need, the possible solutions, and have simple criteria for buying like price or brand.
But if your customer is making a big decision that will have significant impacts in one or more of these areas for their business, then strap in;
- Investment in time or money
- Changes to processes or operations
- Expansion into a new market
These clients will need longer to build up their awareness, their confidence in your offering, and to commit to a purchase.
Here’s how you can help that happen.
Build authority with content
We all want it as brands, but it’s hard to build. It’s also essential for sales: According to Surveymonkey, trust plays a role for 92% of Americans and 89% of UK residents when making a big purchase.
You can build trust by positioning your brand as an authority on a subject.
And you achieve that through the content that you create and share, when it demonstrates expertise and experience, providing social proof.
First things first; when you have a long sales process it’s likely whatever you’re selling is designed to fix a sizable problem for your customer. One that needs specialised knowledge.
So demonstrate that you have knowledge of the problem your customer is facing. Help them understand it better. Can they reduce its impact themselves without having to spend money? Tell them about that.
The benefits of doing this are twofold;
- You’re showing that you do have the expertise they need
- You have their best interests at heart, by giving advice away freely
Some people make the argument that they don’t want to share like this: “My competitors will see it!” “I’ve worked hard for this knowledge - I’m not giving it away!”
The info you’re giving away shouldn’t be trade secrets, but it should still help your audience. The likelihood is that even if they could eliminate their problem with your advice, if they’re a busy company they won’t have the time, aptitude, or resources to put it into practice anyway.
But they will have discovered who can do it for them. You.
It’s one thing showing you have expertise, but you can’t build trust and authority without demonstrating your experience in your field.
This is because many people look to the actions of others when trying to make a decision. It’s what’s known as ‘social proof’; a concept identified by psychology and marketing professor Robert Cialdini in his 1984 book ‘Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion’.
By highlighting your experience, you’re backing up your claims of being a specialist and showing that others have trusted you in the past.
Demonstrate your experience with content like;
- Case studies
- User statistics
By making your experience easy-to-find on your website and including it in social posts and emails to your audience, you’re providing a regular drumbeat of social proof. This reassures them that others have enjoyed benefits from working with you. It also builds your brand’s authority.
Your prospect is busy.
Your brand isn’t just competing against your rivals in the marketplace; it’s competing against all the demands on your prospect’s attention both in and outside the workplace.
If your sales process is measured in months or years, that’s a long time to keep your prospect’s attention.
So your brand needs to carve out your place in their mind and defend it. Content allows you to do that, no matter what platform it’s on.
To stay front of mind with content, you need to make it a regular thing. A steady drip-feed of content that is:
And which has enough variety to keep your audience engaged.
Variety is key here.
You don’t know what stage of the sales funnel a reader of your content may be at, so it’s important to share different content targeting people at every level. Don’t be all top-level awareness; target people at the consideration and purchase stages too!
Supplement the person-led sales approach
Nowadays many B2B purchases are made entirely without speaking to another person.
But the kind of low-volume, long lead time sales we’re talking about are still more likely to involve personal contact. For good reason; 70% of B2B buyers actually want to interact with a salesperson.
If you’ve done sales in this kind of role, you’ll know the feeling of calling up a prospect ‘just to check in’ but with not much to offer them while they’re making a decision.
Content is your friend in this situation.
There are many tools (think Hubspot, Pipedrive) which can automate content delivery so you have multiple touchpoints, segmented for different audience types. This helps salespeople keep leads warm with ebooks, guides, how-tos and much more.
There’s another way to use content to supplement the person-led sales approach.
Use other people’s.
Now hear me out. Obviously you won’t be sending your competitors’ brochures to your prospects. But with the deluge of news and content being created, there’s bound to be some — that doesn’t have your brand on it — that will resonate with a prospect..
Sending relevant content to prospects on an ad-hoc basis helps demonstrate that you have their best interests at heart and aren’t always pushing for the sale.
So next time you’re reading the news or on social media, ask yourself: could sharing this content build a stronger link with one of our prospects?
Content supporting sales
So if you’re struggling to keep prospects engaged throughout the sales process, now you know why content needs to be part of your approach.
You also know some of the ways you can use it to build brand authority, keep your business at the front of your prospect’s mind, and supplement the person-led sales approach.
And if you think you need a bit of extra help in using content to support your sales process, get in touch today. We’d love to hear from you.