While nearly every company bases their content calendar on a list of keywords with a high enough monthly search volume, smart industry 4.0 salespeople and marketers take a different approach to creating content that actually leads to increased revenue.
Your focus should not be to drive more traffic or marketing qualified leads but to grow the business. The reality is that more website visits and e-book downloads will in most cases not translate into a bigger pipeline, more qualified sales opportunities, and closed won deals.
While SEO-driven content is important (a topic for another time), it should only be a small part of your overall customer acquisition strategy. Most industry 4.0 companies have complex and innovative products that many prospective buyers are not aware of. This gives you several constraints and challenges when creating your content strategy:
- You will find little search volume around your most relevant keywords.
- Your competitors are using the same tools to find the same keywords and topics.
- Using the same keywords will stop you from finding new and unique angles for your content that would help it stand out
This is why I want to propose a different strategy for creating content for industry 4.0 companies. This strategy will support sales in closing new deals, help sales and marketing become aligned around the same business goals, and help your business shift away from a wasteful approach to creating content.
Sales conversations gives you ideas for content
Most marketers do not talk to customers. Instead, they focus on doing keyword research, optimising the website, or tweaking their ad campaigns. This causes marketers to have little insight into what their sales team is hearing from their customers.
This results in missing out on many of the hidden gems in the conversations between a prospective buyer and the salesperson. Unfortunately, these insights often become locked away in a note in the CRM or in the salesperson's head.
I can promise you that there are tens, if not hundreds of ideas for your content strategy hidden in your company’s sales process. For example, a sales conversation can uncover big upcoming trends in your prospects industry, common objections when presenting the product, or identify in which areas the prospect needs more proof or reassurance from your company.
These insights might be relevant to the rest of your target market and can be excellent sources for your next piece of content, giving you something that shows you understand your customer’s problems better than any of your competitors. By supplementing this insight with relevant research and data, you will have a piece of content that can help your prospect make a purchase decision more easily.
Content ideas should be gathered in a shared document by using Evernote, Google Docs, or other similar applications. Instead of wasting too much time sourcing keywords, you can collect information from the sales process, then leverage it to create content that helps you to close more deals.
Salespeople are already making content
While outsourcing content to the marketing team or to an agency sometimes works, it usually ends up with companies publishing generic content that lacks any insight or value for prospective buyers.
Great content is authentic and insightful, and can only be created by being rooted in someone’s unique perspective, experiences, or expertise. It is not, however, created by having a marketer identify a relevant keyword and writing about a subject they do not truly understand.
The truth is that content that drives revenue needs to come from a subject-matter expert. If you are selling complex, technical, and interconnected products to experienced decision-makers with a lot of technical expertise, they will look straight through the content written by someone who does not truly know their field.
Salespeople are often great sources of subject-matter expertise, but we all know how difficult it is to get salespeople to spend time on other activities than selling. This is why you have to make it easy for them to contribute to your company’s content creation.
The easiest way to get sales to contribute to creating content is to audit all of the existing sales collateral they are already producing. Some sources of subject-matter expertise might be:
- Corporate presentations
- Sales presentations
- Prospecting emails
- Meeting summaries
- Sales collateral
- Product information
- Event brochures
- White papers
- Sales proposals
- Zoom conversations
If you don’t have a lot of existing content to repurpose, you could instead have a salesperson create a short brief with a few bullet points they want to cover for a certain topic. Together with an experienced writer, the salesperson can talk over the points as if he or she were having a conversation with a prospect, then the writer can transcribe the audio file. This is an effective approach for salespeople to turn their insights into great articles, case studies, social media posts, etc.
LinkedIn helps sales source better leads
Salespeople often complain about the low quality of leads they get from marketing. The sad truth is that the lead generation playbook most companies have been running for the last 10 years has become very ineffective, resulting in salespeople getting handed low-quality leads.
Not only can it take time for marketers to create a program that delivers inbound leads consistently, but the average conversion rate from a marketing qualified lead to a customer is usually pitifully low at most companies.
While tactics such as gating e-books can generate hundreds or thousands of leads, most of these types of leads will be unqualified. For a salesperson, this means having to sift through a long list of leads that will never close. This creates a very inefficient process that ends up wasting a lot of the marketing budget and also results in a bloated sales department.
However, salespeople can actually source their own leads using content marketing. As mentioned earlier in this article, salespeople are already creating a lot of content. This has forced them to become better at skills such as copywriting that has typically a marketer’s responsibility.
Creating content is simply the path of least resistance to reaching (or surpassing) the quota. Instead of constantly talking about your product, talk to prospective customers, and understand how you can insert value and communicate things that are helpful to them.
Then you need to distribute the content. For most B2B companies, the best place to get your content seen is on LinkedIn. You are probably selling a complex solution to businesses, making LinkedIn the perfect place to identify and connect with decision-makers and B2B companies all over the world.
LinkedIn lets you search for your ICP (ideal client profile) or join industry groups. Publishing content on this platform will give your salespeople great reach and the opportunity to create awareness around your product and company without breaking the bank. All it takes is insightful content and investing some time on a daily basis to publish it.
To reach your target audience, your whole sales department should publish short written, visual, or video content frequently where the goal should not be to generate leads and get someone's contact information, just to provide value.
Publishing a stream of relevant content and connecting with your ICP on LinkedIn will help amplify your reach and reach decision-makers much faster than waiting to get traffic from search engines.
You need more content about your product
Why is it that many industry 4.0 companies have experienced steady growth in traffic from organic or social sources, while the number of opportunities and customers stay flat?
Most visitors who come to your site through top-of-the-funnel content are a long way from buying your product, and a lot of them will never buy from you at all. While this type of content is effective when it comes to creating awareness for your company, it is not effective when it comes to generating revenue for your business.
You might have seen a calculation like this:
While these calculations look great on paper, most of the time they are just wild guesses. Even if you have a lot of top-of-funnel traffic coming in through your blog, it does not necessarily mean that this traffic will automatically convert to paying customers down the line.
Most companies who use the traditional HubSpot lead generation playbook struggle with converting leads into paying customers because many of them are lacking intent or are months or years away from buying anything. On top of that, most companies struggle with the follow-up process where they lack great bottom-of-the-funnel content that gives the buyer reassurance and technical information they need to make a purchasing decision.
The common best practice you will hear from a lot of marketers is that you should not talk about your product too much in your marketing, but the reality is that content made for those who are at the end of their buying cycle can be highly effective at closing more business.
When marketers focus too much on getting traffic and generating marketing qualified leads who are not qualified, it results in a high drop-off rate from lead to customer. You are likely not running a company with an unlimited budget, and you need to prioritise where you invest your resources to ensure you are attracting and closing new customers.
You should have a quality over quantity approach to customer acquisition, especially in the early stages, and not focus too much on generating leads that will never close. This is why you should create more content for bottom-of-the-funnel, where salespeople create content for those prospects who are aware of you and your product, they have an intent to buy, but who need either reassurance or answers to questions about your product before signing the deal.
Bottom-of-the-funnel content comes in many different forms such as articles, videos, or PDFs, and the content is a mix of product information, case studies, use cases, pricing, comparisons, developer documentation or FAQs. These types of content will help you reduce the drop-off in your sales process, improve your closing rates and make sure that your company’s sales process is aligned with the buyer’s journey.
Smart industry 4.0 marketers need to draw ideas for content from elsewhere than keyword research, namely their sales department. By mining your salespeople for content ideas and leveraging their subject-matter expertise, you can shift your focus away from getting traffic and leads that might never close, and instead create content that generates revenue for your company. To summarise:
- Use sales conversations as a source for content ideas, then add relevant insights and data to make it a valuable asset for your company
- Leverage the subject-matter expertise sales already have by auditing existing content, then repurpose it into articles, infographics and other formats.
- Capture existing demand by talking about your product in different content formats such as case studies, FAQs, application notes, product comparisons etc.
Are you including your sales department when creating content. If not, why? By leveraging the knowledge about the customer, you can create content that will stand out from the competition and close more deals.