Making lots of “Dough”: Grist for the Mill, Content for the Sales Pipeline

15 Nov
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Grist for the mill is a charming idiom from our agricultural past describing something that can be used to advantage; in this case, grist as grain that’s milled into flour for making bread. Content is the grist for modern marketing, isn’t it? We’ve discovered the powerful advantages in developing the skill of saying the right thing at the right time to hopefully the right customer. Content’s power has not only become increasingly prominent, what to communicate when changes so significantly as the relationship changes and grows, that deciding what to say when and when to say what, is as much of an art as baking croissants. Figuring out the right script and right timing is not only tasty; it’s the key to companies making lots of “dough”. In a previous article, 6 Insights on Building Sales Pipelines: Funneling the Prospect from Content Asset, Social Share, Email or Call to Closed Deal, we focused on techniques and technologies to optimize the customer journey through the funnel. This article offers expert insights about best practices for communicating content to the customer along the way.

SocialAgenda Media: What does your content marketing blueprint for filling your sales pipeline look like now and how do various departments and organizational functions need to be aligned for maximum pipeline optimization? Can you describe it in 3-10 steps?

John Wallin, CEO & President, Accelera Innovation:

1. Specific targets of growth opportunities
2. Rigorous discussion, case preparation and metrics
3. Strategies account plan
4. Accurate reporting
5. Gap analysis
6. Effective communication
7. Account growth and expansion

Susan Enns, B2B Sales Coach and Author, B2B Sales Connections:

A content marketing blueprint needs to be customized for every organization and the products and services they sell. With our sales coaching, training, recruiting and job board products and services, our first contact is normally when someone visits our website.  We therefore focus on various SEO techniques, social media linking strategies and local networking and speaking engagements to drive traffic to our website.  In fact, everyone in our organization encourages all our customers and prospects to visit our website at all times to start the process.

Once there, we want to engage the website visitor with online content that is focused on delivering free educational content, not just sales pitches.  If the website visitor likes what they see, they are encouraged to join our mailing lists and our free Download Centre.  Depending on the activities here, each person who subscribes is segmented into different target lists, allowing us to tailor the content and timing they receive to their specific interests.  Each touch with a prospect has a detailed call to action so that when the prospect is ready to buy, they can do so immediately.

Giles House, Sr. VP & CMO at CallidusCloud:

No matter how qualified leads are generated, the most important action marketing can take is to get leads to the sales people as quickly as possible. The difference between three minutes and one hour of time elapsing from getting that lead and passing it on to sales can make an almost 70% difference in the conversion rate. We’re all very, very busy in our lives these days. We’re all asked to do more with less. If you’re talking to someone within an hour of them expressing interest they’ll remember who you are and what you spoke about and why they were interested, whereas if you leave it for a few days it’s likely to be “Sorry, who are you again?” So speed is number one and a way you can combat that is having a way to automate it. If you have your territories aligned with your marketing automation system you can automatically route those leads to the right salesperson.

It’s also important to know whether those leads are being followed up. With each lead we pass over to sales, there’s a SLA (service level agreement) attached. We ensure it meets their quality criteria in exchange for guarantees that it will be swiftly followed up and systematically pursued. If the lead then doesn’t pan out, as part of the SLA sales must return it to marketing for us to re engage and nurture. But underpinning all of this, the real key is having a close, effective relationship between marketing and sales and top to bottom buy-in from both.

Jennifer Johnson, CMO at Coverity:

You need compelling, relevant, targeted content that addresses the following questions:

1) Why should I listen?  What pain are you solving?  I want to know you understand my world and what keeps me up at night.
2) Who else from my peer group is using it?  What value are they getting?  I don’t want to be the first.
3) How you are going to solve my problem, quickly and without completely disrupting my process?  I can’t be slowed down.

SocialAgenda Media: What are the differences in strategies you apply for ToFu, MoFu and BoFu content design, promotion and distribution?

Samuel Adler, Dir. Global Demand Generation & Analyst Relations at Zuora:

Top of the funnel tends to be emails, quick videos, and demo videos about who we are. Middle of the funnel tends to be data sheets, white papers, and more detail about what the solution is about. The bottom of the funnel is typically case studies, referrals, comparisons with other products, and maybe even deeper dives into product technical specs. We have a whole knowledge center that goes deep into things when prospects are late in the buying cycle.

Chris Sullens, President & Chief Executive Officer at Marathon Data Systems:

For ToFu, we examine the types of search terms are driving traffic to our website(s) and try to design content to answer those questions through website articles and our blog(s). In the MoFu stage we focus on providing group webinars and demos as well as sales tools like comparison sheets. In the BoFu stage we engage in a one on one demonstration and needs assessment and will also provide a software trial.

Giles House: I think the main thing to think about when you’re looking the different stages of the funnel is to focus on the differences in what you’re saying.

If a customer comes to you and they’re at the RFP stage, it’s going to be a really hard sell to ram your white papers down their throat and for them to digest your thought leadership. It’s hard for the person who’s running the project to turn around to their team and say, “Hang on a minute, Callidus says we’ve this messed up, we haven’t considered x, y, z.” You can’t expect these guys to derail their process at this stage so you need a more inviting approach.

At the bottom of the funnel it’s really about the value, price and differentiation between you and your competition. They’ve established the need, they’ve committed to the fact they have to change what they’re doing, and they’re actively evaluating the competition. There it’s about you vs. the other guys and we find that’s when analyst reports, customer success stories and videos are pretty good. Lining them up with a customer that’s replaced your competitor with you and getting them to talk about the pitfalls that they experienced with the competition, that’s the stuff for the bottom of the funnel, the hand to hand combat as the sales folks call it.

The top of the funnel is much more educational. The information you’d expect to see in a white paper whether it’s blog posts, or something dissected onto Twitter, or YouTube videos, or Infographics which are popular, however you do it, that sort of thought leadership content engages people at the top of the funnel. As they get a little bit closer, after you’ve established who you are, peaked their interest, gotten them to evaluate solutions and decide they’re ready to change the way they’re doing the things we find webinars are good at tipping them over the edge and getting them into the sales cycle.

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