80% of business decision-makers said they prefer to get information via articles, not ads. 70% said content makes them feel closer to a company. 60% said content provided by companies helps them make smarter buying decisions.
In this article I will lay out exactly how to create content that generates leads, how to deploy it, and the methodologies behind all of it. I’m not holding anything back. You will learn our secrets, tips, and tricks that allows us to be one of the best digital agencies in the world.
Why am I doing this?
Why not . . . I don’t believe than information is proprietary. I subscribe to the idea that it’s what people do with information and not the information itself that dictates their success.
So, cuddle up under a blanket, warm up your apple cider, and get ready to learn all about the birds and bees of lead generation.
Section One: The Why and How
Feeding the Beast
The constant struggle for any organization is the generation of enough leads to satisfy their sales department, while also ensuring the quality of those leads. (Translation: generating leads is a pain in the ass.) Often times the traditional methods of lead generation are not scalable (i.e. trade shows, in-person presentations, and executive retreats) or they risk damaging the company’s brand when attempting to scale and often devolve into spam (i.e. phone appointment setting, email blasts, mailers).
So, how is a company to adjust to the changing landscapes of spam blockers, gate keepers, and a more disengaged clientele?
The answer is content.
Content is the great equalizer in any industry. Yes, one firm may be able to add more polish to their software because they have a larger budget. Or a competitor can easily outspend you in paid search and SEO. But when it comes to content, it isn’t a matter of quantity, but rather quality.
But what is content? It’s such a generic term and is bandied about like a buzzword, akin to big data, cloud computing, and NickelBack circa 2005.
Quite simply, content marketing is the process of creating a relationship of trust between you and your potential customers through the use of text, video, graphics, and sound.
Content for the Sake of Content
Because content marketing gained so much fame over the last few years, many firms have jumped on the bandwagon proclaiming themselves to be content marketers, but they were simply content creators. Unfortunately, the b2b space is not a “Field of Dreams” proposition. If you build it, they won’t come, no matter how much you think you look like Kevin Costner. You also need to promote the content.
Because promotion and creation are two diametrically opposed skill sets, it’s rare to find a single group or individual that is competent in each field.
However in this guide, I’ll explain how you can create the content as well how to promote it.
Understanding your Customer
Sales in the b2b world is usually targeted towards the c-suite, senior management, or department managers. Because of this, you need to begin viewing your customers as a well-educated and experienced group of individuals.
Think about how you, as someone in management, react when you’re confronted with low-effort and low-thought marketing techniques. You usually mark emails as spam, dodge pesky phone calls, and ignore pop-up ads. Then why would you target your customers in a fashion that you yourself would never respond positively to?
Instead, you need to understand that your customer wants what you want. They want value, they want information, and most of all they don’t want to be sold.
A great trait of the internet is its ability to promote the proliferation of ideas and information. Previously, the keys to knowledge used to be guarded by publishers and promoters atop their ivory towers. In today’s world all you need is a keyboard and a website.
With this shift, we’re experiencing a new wave of thought leaders and thought creators. No longer must someone have a book deal or frequent the conference circuit in order to build their authority. People are now judged on the content of their words and whether those words hold value.
The same is true for companies. There are businesses that create the thoughts and ideas that permeate through an industry, and there are those that merely regurgitate that information. The trick is to ensure that your organization is a thought leader.
Why do you want to become a thought leader? To build trust with your clients.
When sitting across the negotiation table, there are several questions that are running through each party’s head. However, first and foremost are these two questions: “Are these guys for real?” and “Can I trust them?”
If those two questions are taken care of, then everything else is just window dressings.
Give them Something Tangible
I’ve seen countless eBooks, whitepapers, and videos that are nothing more than long-form advertisements for the company. They don’t give any real value to the customer, but rather bait and switch them with a catchy headline.
When was the last time you curled up on the couch and read a pamphlet for a company? Or you popped a bowl of popcorn to sit down and watch commercials?
It doesn’t happen! So stop thinking that your customer wants to be force fed your marketing material. Again, you need to get inside the head of your customer. Treat them how you want to be treated.
What people want is good and informative content. They want to know how to solve a problem they’re facing. So, you need to give them that. Tell them how the special sauce is made. Open up the doors and invite them in to see the process.
“But, Mike! They’ll steal our ideas.”
Ideas are a dime a dozen. Plus, most of them are garbage anyways.
You and I both know how to grill a burger. Yet, we find ourselves waiting in line at In N’ Out at least once a month. Why? We know it’s cheaper to do it ourselves.
Come close . . . I’m going to whisper a marketing secret in your ear.
NO ONE WANTS TO MAKE THE SAUSAGE!
Everyone tells you they want to know how the sausage is made, but when push comes to shove, they have other things they need to attend to. So, tell them how it’s made. Show them everything. Then they’ll smile, think to themselves “I can totally do that,” and then come to you a week later to make the sausage for them because they don’t have the team or the systems in place to accomplish it.
Understanding the Cycle of a Sale
Let me ask you some questions that we typically ask our clients:
Have you ever had an old lead call you up, unsolicited, six months later and tell you that they’re ready to sign up? Yes. Almost everyone has had this happen. It’s viewed as luck. And if you’re not performing certain steps, it is luck. But what if that was replicable and quantifiable?
Have you ever referred a company that you’ll never personally use to an acquaintance or contact because you like how they do business? Again, the answer is yes. Almost everyone has done this.
Have you ever had buyer’s remorse after choosing a service or product and pondered how things would have been if you’d chosen differently? Everyone has done this!
Have you ever shopped for a service or product long before you had any intent to actually purchase? Yes, yes, and of course, yes. Everyone does this.
From these four questions we point out that our clients are not putting themselves in their potential customer’s shoes. Instead, they’re treating them like a name and an email. Their potential customers are either a yes or a no. There is no middle ground. But as these questions have just proven, there’s an entire universe of possibility to be found in the middle.
A sales cycle isn’t something that is set in stone. It often never replicates itself in the exact same way. And it can be screwed up when not handled correctly.
The Flawed Funnel
If an average sales funnel has a 10% conversion rate, that means that 90% of leads are not a fit for the company or the sale fell through for one reason or another. The typical company will usually give a weak description for the lost sale that is similar to one of these:
- Didn’t close
- Bad timing
- Went dark
- Call back next quarter
And that’s it! What can a sales team glean from this information? Most of those leads will never develop into anything of significance and will oftentimes just eat up resources by having a sales team waste calls and follow-ups.
Now, what if you looked at that 90% of leads and saw them for what they really are, a goldmine. Just because they didn’t close right away doesn’t mean they won’t refer business to you, or close next quarter, or come to you after they’ve tried a competitor. In fact, if you treat them properly, you’ll stay top of mind and when the time does come, you’ll be the first name on their list.
How is this done? With polite persistence and good data.
Generating Leads Out of Thin air
Many times our clients have been able to generate quality leads without spending a penny on additional outbound marketing. How? By going back through their CRM’s and mining them for lost opportunities.
They then take those opportunities and follow up with them as they should have done in the first place.
Many of their leads that didn’t pan out previously were now coming back. Not only were they coming back, but they were more educated and better understood the product and its value.
Drip it Like it’s Hot
Emails are not and should not be used as a blunt force marketing tactic. Instead, they are a surgeon’s blade and can create incredible results when deployed properly.
Most companies have thousands of names and emails in their company database. And periodically, when sales are slow, they’ll send out an “email blast” to try and drum up some action.
Admit it . . . you’ve done this.
Don’t beat yourself up. Everyone has done this at one point or another. And you know why they do it? Because it works. Hell, anything will work if you have enough names to contact. But if you were to take a baseball bat and use it to open a bottle of wine, you’re going to end up with a mess. Yes, you’ll get the wine out of the bottle, and yes that could be considered accomplishing your task—but think of how much more efficiently a corkscrew would have done the job.
So, treat your campaigns like precision tools like the surgeon’s blade or a corkscrew; stop acting like it’s a baseball bat that you can use to mercilessly beat your contacts with.
Your Clients are NOT a Piggy Bank
I find it odd that most companies will stop marketing to their customers AFTER they’ve received their signed contract, credit card, or check to begin services. I suppose they believe that it is “mission accomplished” after they’ve closed the sale. But this is dead wrong.
I’ve asked our clients if they market to their existing customers and I always get the same answer.
“Well, we upsell them and inform them of our new services.”
That’s not marketing to your existing clients! That’s shaking a piggy bank in the hopes that there’s still some change left in the porcine porcelain novelty.
We’ve already discussed that you need to use real and engaging content in your marketing. Do you believe that your existing customers don’t want that same content? Couldn’t they use your recent eBook of “10 Tips to Optimizing SalesForce”? Wouldn’t they want to attend your upcoming webinar on “Using Data to Supercharge your Sales”? (You’re welcome for two awesome subjects, by the way)
Of course they do.
Do you know why some companies are the envy of certain industries? Why everyone seems to roll their eyes when they’re mentioned because they’re just so damn successful and you can’t turn left or right without hearing about them?
It’s because they have brand evangelists. What’s a brand evangelist? Here’s the definition: Someone that loves your company and can’t shut up about it.
Annoying right? Wrong! It’s annoying to your competitors, but trust me, you’ll love them.
Hallelujah, Brand Evangelists!
No one stays at their job forever. It just doesn’t happen. Hell, even CEO’s and founders change jobs all the time. They get bought out and go start something new. Because of this, you want to ensure that you make your clients love your product so much, and use all the of the features in order to make your offering as sticky as possible.
They shouldn’t be able to operate on a day to day basis without relying on some facet of your product. That way, when they move to another company and they take a look at their systems, the first thing they’ll do is run into the CEO’s office and say this.
“How on earth are you guys operating without X company’s ludicrously efficient and effective product? I mean, honestly . . . are you guys stuck in the Stone Age? Will I be forced to chisel my memos on a stone table? If so, tell me now, because I have carpal tunnel and that’s not going to work! We need to implement that product ASAP! It’s the only way I can get this job done. And trust me, you’ll love it.”
Well, hello free sale. How are you doing? You found your way into our bank account all on your own? You’re just so cute. I’ll go ask my sales manager if we can keep you.
A bit of a tangent here, but I kind of hate trade shows. In fact, I can’t remember meeting someone who really enjoyed trade shows. I believe the business world would be better off if we could just do away with those messes.
But, if you do attend trade shows, imagine how great it would be to have 50 to 100 reps running around the trade show floor touting your product offering. That’s what you’d have when you create brand evangelists. They do the selling for you. They refer everyone to you. They annoyingly spout off about how great you are when there’s a competitor of yours sitting RIGHT NEXT TO THEM!
The Inverted Funnel
I could write an entire book on the inverted funnel (Hmm . . . maybe I will). But to keep things moving along, I’ll show you what it is and based on what I just told you—you can now optimize it. See how that funnel illustrates how you can make your clients into fans and your fans into raving lunatic brand evangelists. It’s so easy that a Neanderthal living in a cave could accomplish it. (I just dodged a lawsuit from GEICO with the wording of that sentence).
So spend as much time on your current clients as you are with your potential clients. This will transform your customer database into a firehose of revenue instead of the piggy bank you keep shaking like a petulant 8-year-old.
Alright, I’ve badgered you enough about why you need to be doing this type of marketing. Now let’s get into the types of content you’re going to want to create and how you’ll promote this content. Click to read Section Two: The Content.
Looking for more great reads? Check out these related articles:
- To Demand Gen ot to Lead Gen; That is the Question
- 4 Lead Generation Tools You Should Be Using Since Yesterday
- Improving Your B2B Lead Generation with Inbound Marketing
- Your Step-By-Step Guide to Generating More Leads for Your Company. Section Three: The Metrics
- Your Step-By-Step Guide to Generating More Leads for Your Company. Section Two: The Content