If your win rates are not what you want them to be, don't be so quick to blame Sales. As Sales Engine VP of Sales Ric Riddle explains in this short video, demand generation has moved farther up the funnel.
For decades, the B2B marketer has been a manager of projects. They develop white papers, email campaigns, go to trade shows, and—well, you know, execute on lots of projects.
But the world has changed, and the internet is now crushing a sales rep’s ability to generate their own leads. So, marketing’s new role as lead generators for sales requires more than just project management and stellar execution.
B2B companies have found success in content marketing, and they’re upping the ante. The competition for your prospect’s attention is only going to get worse, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t get in the game—you just need to find your competitive advantage.
Whether you’re an email marketer, blogger, or inbound marketing specialist, generating an ongoing narrative is a much more difficult proposition because you quickly run out of thought-leadership topics that can be re-spun into different angles, which is why a new critical role has emerged in the world of content marketing—the content strategist.
Having the same brand since their start in 1991, First Rate knew they had to make some major changes if they were going to compete effectively and grow in today’s digital era. Given their mission to help wealth management firms grow and thrive as stewards of their client’s investments, First Rate needed an innovative approach that would help empower investors and advisors to simplify and better understand their financial world.
The development of ongoing, thought-leadership content has become the necessary element for a marketing program that increases visibility and produces leads, but it’s not enough simply to publish a blog or white paper anymore.
Businesses love repeatable processes. Everyone is looking for the secret formulas that we can replicate and repeat to increase revenue. The problem is that when we find something that works predictably, others jump on the bandwagon and muddy the waters—much like what we’re seeing now with content marketing.
Sales prospecting today requires a more complex process than it did even five years ago, largely because the buyer has a lot more control and salespeople are no longer the sole gatekeepers to the information they need.
With the rise of content marketing, we’re wondering if salespeople will be replaced—or, in other words, will we be able to automate marketing processes to the point where we can lead people all the way through their buying journey, eliminating the need for sales reps?
Today’s B2B company knows that they need to produce ongoing, thought-leadership content to engage with prospects and create a competitive advantage, so how can an outside entity produce content when they are not experts in the product or industry?
It used to be that darkening the skies with sales reps, albeit expensive, was the best way to grow a B2B company—more feet on the street equaled more opportunities. But in a world where prospects hide behind caller ID and email, it’s the organization who has the most valuable content for prospects shopping online for solutions that wins.
Lead generation through content marketing means attracting people with a problem you can solve (that they can afford to pay for!). This requires way more than just knowing the demographic information on your prospects. Your audience must be built over time by generating superior content and putting it where they might see it—and if you’re out of touch, your content will fall on deaf eyeballs.
Where most B2B companies are investing in content marketing, less than a quarter are satisfied with their return. Many factors contribute to this dissatisfaction, but the primary reason that I’ve run across in discussions with companies is that they’ve approached the situation backwards.
It’s like they’re trying to build a house by digging a hole and immediately buying the windows and the wall treatments before meeting with an architect. And even worse, they choose an architect that specializes in bridge building.
Despite a vibrant U.S. economy and an ever-expanding arsenal of technologies to help both salespeople and marketers reach more prospects, many companies continue to struggle to grow sales. Why? And what can you do about it?
Content has clearly crossed a tipping point, as evidenced by how much crap shows up in my inbox and social media feeds. The real problem is that with everyone is publishing so much stuff, it all becomes noise.
f you are familiar with the sales funnel, you are likely also familiar with the following: Your prospects’ expectations of you have changed, but your business leaders’ expectations haven’t.
Prospects expect you to be a publisher, not a marketer. They expect you to be an expert in your field and about your solution, as well as to create relevant, informative content about it. Meanwhile, your business leaders still expect you to increase sales.
In the not-so-distant past, scaling a B2B company meant hiring more sales people that were responsible for all their own business development. They would bang on the phones, knock on doors, go to conferences and networking events and that would be enough to fill their calendars with enough qualified appointments.
For companies struggling to reach sales goals, doing more of the same (more cold-calls, adding more salespeople) won’t break through growth plateaus. These aggressive approaches to traditional lead-generation tactics are not as effective anymore because buyer behavior has changed, and therefore, breaking through plateaus requires changing your overall customer acquisition strategy.
One of the biggest failure points in content marketing is not actually in marketing—It’s the handoff from marketing to sales. That’s because most sales and marketing organizations are not properly aligned.
To keep their jobs, sales reps need to close as many deals as they can. They’re not interested in engaging with prospects who are not ready to buy. Marketing, on the other hand, often has a different definition of a qualified lead. If a person regularly takes the calls-to-action in your outbound email campaigns, downloads content from your website, follows your company on social media, and has visited your product pricing page, that person has self-identified as someone who is very interested in your product or service. So what can you do about it?
As content marketers, there are a lot of things that we can and should be measuring—open rates, click through rates, number of visitors (unique and returning), number of users, conversion rates, number of impressions, social media likes and followers, and so on.
All of those numbers are important at the campaign level to know how they perform against other campaigns. But none of these metrics actually communicates the overall effectiveness of your marketing when it comes to bottom line revenue increase.
Most marketing and sales leaders in the business-to-business world know that nurturing leads is essential to maintain a digital connection with buyers who want to learn about a business pain, product, or service—but who are not yet interested in talking to a sales person.
Buyers today often use the Internet to research products and vendors long before they’re prepared to make a purchase. This kind of buyer isn’t ready to be handed over to a senior sales executive and should instead be nurtured, or so common wisdom dictates.
But can the sales impact of nurturing be quantified?
Most marketing organizations today do not have the right resources in place to properly execute a content marketing strategy for lead generation, and if you’ve had less than desirable results, this could be a major reason why.
If you plan to join your competitors and the leaders of your industry in the move toward content marketing, there is something you should know. You will have to pivot your organizational and philosophical focus to embrace content. You will have to hire, or find among your existing employees, true content craftsmen.
Creating an end-to-end lead generation process with content marketing requires that your top-of-funnel content (the content that focuses on early stage buyers and is commonly found in blogs) is tied together with your premium conversion assets. But it can’t stop there.
By now, you have no doubt heard that content marketing is the future of demand generation. All the cool kids are doing it, and all those other marketing methods are useless and old-fashioned in comparison. But if the function of content is to generate and nurture your leads through your sales funnel, how do you create content that is good enough to comply with the demands of your sales team?