We are big advocates of Content Marketing here at Market Leadership Journal, as one can tell from what we’ve shared these past few years. When it comes to leveraging content, there are two common running themes that I focus on to the point of sounding like a broken record: engagement and service.
The two are related, of course. Indeed, you can’t hope to serve someone until you have engaged them–or captured their attention in some meaningful way. This means doing so without resorting to a short-lived gimmick (which may get someone’s attention but certainly will not keep it).
Which begs the question: how do we know if we are doing our job?
The obvious answer is in sales, but that itself is jumping the gun. I often compare marketing and sales as the first being the forest; the second being the trees. Marketing addresses a bigger picture and strategy that fuels sales. This means that you can’t just put quality content out there and wait for sales to jump.
Rarely does one make a sale with a single close. Rather, it takes a series of closes, often referred to as a sales funnel:
- When a prospect agrees to a meeting or phone conversation, that’s a close.
- When a prospect requests additional information or has meaningful questions, that’s a close.
- When a prospect confirms understanding and a want and/or need of the value you can deliver, that’s a close.
- When a prospect writes the check or places the order, that’s definitely a close!
So how do we get the prospect into this funnel? How do we translate prospect engagement and service into sales? Or better put: what constitutes the FIRST CLOSE of this sales funnel?
That’s where content marketing can make all the difference. It can help you with that first close.
Have you ever responded to an online ad or post of some kind that offered you a free report, ebook or other resource that promised to deliver something you wanted? In that case, what did you do? Chances are, you completed a simple form that asked for little more than your name and email address, and within minutes, the downloadable report was in your hands.
Bear in mind: the publisher of that resource didn’t give anything away. Too many people think content marketing is about giving away the store. Nothing can be further from the truth. For you to get the information you wanted, you had to give something of value that you possessed in return. Instead of cash, you gave your contact information, with tacit permission for further communication (with power to revoke said permission at any time).
And in the process, you added yourself to the publisher’s subscriber base. And the content marketing mission was accomplished.
One of the biggest challenges of sales is that, for better or for worse, prospects buy on their timetable, not ours. It makes no difference to them how badly we need to make payroll or pay the mortgage…that’s not going to impact their decision to buy. What we need to do is fuel the relationship and be top-of-mind so that when they are ready to buy, they call us. To achieve that, we need to be touching that prospect on a regular basis–and to do so, we need them to become a subscriber.
When we have a growing subscriber base (sometimes called a distribution list), we have a pool of individuals who have, for the most part, already placed themselves in the funnel. We have completed that first close. As this base grows and is served through ongoing (but not too often) communication and delivering of value (not sales pitches!), it becomes a true business asset that can fuel future conversions into sales.
So if you want to leverage content into sales, build your subscriber base, and serve them.