If you thought that coffee was for closers, I can tell you with absolute certainty that it’s for content marketers too.
But features, functions, and benefits are only for closers.
At the top of the funnel, when you’re trying to generate interest, no one cares about you or how you do what you do.
Only at the middle and bottom of the funnel (when you’ve qualified and are in negotiations with a prospect) will it be okay to inform them about the features, functions, and benefits of your solution.
Today, we have to go about prospecting in a different way; no one wants to be sold to. They never did. Prior to the content revolution, buyers needed salespeople to get the information they needed. But that time has gone.
Everyone, including you, is more educated and informed about how selling works compared to five or ten years ago. How many car dealerships have had to change their sales approach because people are more informed about what the car should cost before they ever take a test drive?
The culture has shifted to where people just don’t want to talk to a sales person until they’re sure they have a problem you can solve (which is an issue for many B2B companies offering complex solutions while their prospects might not even know that they have a problem yet).
Modern buyers can get themselves into plenty of trouble by diagnosing their own pains and prescribing their own solutions—just like when you go to WebMD to diagnose medical symptoms before actually visiting a doctor, and end up confused or frightened to death!
So how can you use content to generate more leads at the top of the funnel?
The Internet has crushed a sales rep’s ability to get in front of enough prospects. It's not that buyers ever wanted to talk to sales reps, but it was the only way they could learn about best practices and what solutions were available in the market.
Content marketing has proved to be an effective approach for B2B lead generation, especially those with a complex sale—but, to work effectively, it can’t be campaign driven. In other words, emailing out a newsletter and posting a blog or two every month isn’t going to get the job done.
You must approach content marketing with the aim of digitally replacing the one-to-one conversations that salespeople used to get frequently on their own.
In the sales era of marketing, the shortest distance between finding a prospect and getting an appointment was to start cold calling down a list. But we’ve moved into what Robert Rose and Carla Johnson call Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing where campaign-oriented approaches are yesterday’s news.
Note that the concept of building relationships has not changed whatsoever—the only changes are in how to go about the execution of thought-leadership and trust. We must do that by giving the prospect something of value: something that helps them with their job, something that’s entertaining, something that demonstrates you know what you're talking about.
This takes time. Sorry, but it does. You have to build an engaged audience over time, person-by-person.
For all of you that have been trained with a consultative sales methodology, you’re still good to go—even at the top of the funnel (if you can restrain yourself from talking about features, functions, and benefits at that point).
And most certainly when a prospect has agreed to take a meeting, the normal sales process takes over—so go share your coffee with your marketing team. Tell them that you need leads and what they should be talking about to get your prospect’s attention.