Are you unclear about what content marketing or inbound marketing mean? Are you wondering what a social media strategy looks like? Think of them in terms of what you already know about a fairly classical sales process, and you’ll see that you’re better placed than you think to harness these emerging techniques.
Sales Process 1: Get noticed
Any business needs a way to be found by potential customers. Historically this would be through networking, advertising, trade shows etc. Don’t stop doing these if they are working for you. Social Media tools like LinkedIn, Twitter etc offer more opportunities to get noticed and to build relationships that could lead to a sale. Joining the right on-line groups and monitoring Twitter hashtags that relate to your industry are great ways to build awareness of what you do.
Be careful to observe etiquette and understand that people are resistant to tweets that are overtly trying to sell. Think of it like being at a trade show. When somebody comes on to your stand you normally have a conversation about what they do and what you do. You don’t start selling the second you meet them.
Get known through your marketing content
Rich content is increasingly important for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), which will also get you noticed if you have a clear understanding of how potential customers will search for you. Creating new content and pushing this out through social media keeps you in people’s minds and builds your credibility (if your content is good and relevant, that is).
Also, if your content is useful, people may want to share it with other people in their industry. This is the ideal scenario as others are effectively marketing what you do. Get this right and potential customers will be contacting you rather than the other way round.
If you’re blogging on WordPress install the All in One SEO plug-in to make sure you get found by anyone looking for information on your chosen blog topics. Make it easy for people to share your content by using one of the many plug-ins, such as Shareaholic, which automatically adds email and social sharing buttons to your posts.
Sales Process 2: Qualification
A potential customer has become aware that you offer something of interest. They then want a bit more information about your business to be sure that you’re really worth talking to. Who have you worked with? What’s your service like? Do you really know what you are talking about? Here’s where content-based marketing offers big advantages. How many face-to-face meetings has it traditionally taken to establish your credibility? Build a relationship through providing useful, relevant content through blogs, emails, video blogs or an ‘old fashioned’ brochure website – whatever media your customers prefer. What you’re saying is ‘I understand your business, I want to help you, and I am capable of helping you’.
It’s not enough for you to say that you are qualified, the customer has to agree that you are, which means you have to write content with them in mind.The more content you have that reinforces this message the better. Remember though, this is all about what interests your customer, not what interests you.
Sales Process 3: Needs
At some stage you need a conversation to show that you understand and can meet the specific needs of a customer. A good content strategy will ensure that the more general issues are already dealt with; you’ve helped similar organisations with similar issues and already answered several queries through your rich content. The aim of a content marketing strategy is to make customers as sales ready as possible – but avoid consciously trying to sell too early on.
Think of this stage as the preliminary meetings that you usually have. Normally you’re trying to find out what the customer wants to achieve and describing how your products, skills or experience can meet those needs. A good content strategy will cut down the number of those meetings you will need.
Sales Process 4: Closing
Closing a deal is probably not something you will be doing through social media or through your blog. Effective content marketing, however, should reduce the time and effort needed to finalise the sale. Because customers will have greater confidence in your capabilities they should be able to move more quickly to a position where they are able to sign on the dotted line.
Hopefully, thinking about content marketing and social media in terms of the sales process will focus your efforts and direct the content you create. If you want some help with this I would be happy to hear from you – use the ‘Contact’ tab on the left or go to my main website to get in touchby