An article from chiefoutsiders.com recently published the statistic that most buyers are usually 70% through the sales cycle before they make initial contact with a sales person or company representative. As the article points out, this has some serious implications for marketers and how they go about their job. Where I think marketing has the biggest impact on the sales cycle is in the content it delivers, whether directly or indirectly, to support the sales team.
Align content with stages in sales cycle
When people read something can be just as important as what they read. Someone in the beginning of the sales cycle may not even know how big of a need your product or service is, so a brochure listing the features and benefits of your offerings isn’t necessarily the best foot to lead with. Conversely, content delivered toward the end of the sales cycle should zero in on the solutions you have to offer as they pertain to the need or challenge you established earlier in the cycle.
Make content development a joint sales and marketing effort
There should be a continuous loop of communication between the sales and marketing team to develop, deliver and evaluate content. The sales team is on the frontlines talking to prospects and clients, so they should have an idea of what message points are resonating and which ones are falling flat. That information needs to be communicated back to the marketing team so they can adjust content accordingly and empower sales to modify messaging with the appropriate approval processes in place.
Vary the channels and format content is delivered
Don’t limit content to just one channel or format. Digital pieces can be adapted to print for direct mail campaigns and vice versa. White papers and other educational or informative pieces can be pushed through the website, social media, email or an online prospect resource center. Again, this should be a joint effort between sales and marketing to vary where and from whom different touches are coming. This reduces the likelihood of your content becoming background noise to the prospect. This ties back to the importance of when people read something – by creating a seamless cross-channel presence, marketing can attract attention when the buyer/prospect wants to pay attention without being intrusive.
Inform rather than sell
It’s important to remember that at some point, especially for B2B companies, a real-life, thinking and speaking human will be involved in the sale on your organization’s behalf. Their job is to do the selling. And hopefully, by the time the prospect gets to them (remember, about 70% of the way through the buying cycle), marketing has delivered content that established a problem/challenge/need and built credibility on your behalf through the quality of that content.
By adhering to these concepts, you’ll ensure relevance in your content at every stage of the buying cycle, giving you the most “bang” for your marketing buck and building a more effective cross-functional relationship between sales and marketing. Over the course of the cycle, the content will serve to build credibility and differentiate your company from competitors, giving your sales colleagues the foundation they need to take the baton and run with it all the way to the finish line.