In the last 10 years, there has been a significant shift in sales and marketing tactics from outbound to inbound, and for good reason. Outbound marketing is interruptive and therefore not super effective.
Nobody likes making cold calls – or sending cold emails, for that matter – and nobody likes receiving them. The leads aren’t qualified or reasonably targeted, which simply frustrates both the marketers and the prospects.
Instead of utilizing an outdated, inefficient strategy, today it’s all about building trust and brand equity by publishing helpful content. This is the key to sales enablement in 2017 – using content to nurture audience members to the point of sales-readiness.
Cultivate a community by giving your customers useful tools, knowledge and insight that will improve their lives, work, status, outlook or stress level. Here are four steps you can take to warm up your audience so that when you do pitch to them, they’ll be primed to say yes.
Address Your Audience’s Pain Points
In order to establish yourself as a resource and a thought leader in your market, you must focus on them – their pains, needs, interests and challenges.
What does your target audience need to know? No, I’m not talking about your product specifications. What do they need to know which will fill critical knowledge gaps or get them closer to accomplishing their goals?
Home Depot’s blog, for example, teaches do-it-yourselfers how to tackle projects, step by step. By educating their consumers and positioning them to accomplish their goals, Home Depot becomes a go-to resource and cultivates the sense that they’re most interested in helping rather than making a quick buck.
Include Strong Calls-to-Action and Gated Exclusives
What do you want your customers to do on your website? Yes, read the articles. Yes, learn about your company. But what’s the goal? Do you want them to sign up for your email list, schedule an initial sales meeting, attend a webinar, join your Facebook group, register for a course, get on the phone with you? What is the next step you need them to take in order to move them down the sales funnel into a conversion?
First, determine exactly what you want them to do. Then, make this abundantly clear to your audience with compelling micro-copy and prominent buttons. Tools like ConvertPlug, for example, are great for creating exit intent popups to capture leads.
It’s an excellent conversion practice to offer specialized, valuable content placed behind a registration wall in order to encourage email signups. Some companies offer an ebook, white papers or a free webinar in exchange for a potential customer’s email address. You want the email address so you can continue marketing to this prospect, establish a relationship with her and ultimately turn her from a lead into a customer.
The key here is to offer something of real value – not just a case study highlighting how incredible your products are.
For example, copywriter and content marketing thought leader Barry Feldman offers an ebook entitled "Find the Right Copywriter" as a free download on his website. Feldman knows that his sales prospects are likely to be overwhelmed by the thousands and thousands of options for people to hire for great content, so he’s wise to offer people value rather than his services – by empowering people to close on a smart process for hiring someone, in the long run, he’s more likely to get hired himself.
Follow Through with Email and Social
Once your non-promotional, valuable, exclusive content has been downloaded in exchange for an email address, what do you do with that email address? Continue to actively nurture the lead, of course. Email is still one of the cornerstones of marketing success, and beats all other channels when it comes to lead generation.
The distinct advantage of email marketing over any sort of cold pitch is that these folks have already opted-in. They know about your brand, and have actively asked to hear from you. As with all other forms of marketing, there are best practices to follow: ensure that you’re segmenting and automating your emails on the basis of your customer lifecycle, and that just like your blog posts, your emails offer valuable, original content that addresses your audience’s pain points.
And don’t forget – social media is a content distribution powerhouse, but the best sales-oriented marketers know how to use it for more. By pulling people into a conversation with your brand, you can nurture leads without access to anyone’s inbox. Plenty of people who might want to do business with you will be wary of opting into your email list – don’t let them fall between the cracks.
Build Dossiers on Your Site Visitors and Engage
Without turning your audience into qualified leads, you have just wasted your time, attention and resources. This is the most important step since your goal, ultimately, is to sell. Content, social, email – all of these tactics, in a vacuum, will not help you sell. You need insights about your target audience to generate consistent results. You need to know who they are, where they’re located, what they’re interested in, and where they stand in the sales cycle.
Google Analytics is free, reasonably easy to learn, and the reports are quite visual so they’re manageable to digest. If you want better, more detailed insights than the basic data you receive from Google Analytics, you can add a third party partner service like Leadfeeder, which generates exceptionally valuable information that standard Google Analytics won’t give you: who your site visitors are.
It’s considerably easier to push out relevant content when you know which products a specific client (or group of clients) is interested in. Your salespeople will thank you for the insights, too, since reaching out to a prospect armed with a full array of knowledge about what he’s interested in is considerably more comfortable than reaching out cold.
Quality Content + Insight = Sales
Cold calling is dead, and well it should be. As a marketer in today’s climate, you have several better, cheaper, options to reach your target audience and nurture them, cultivating qualified leads.
Shifting your tactics from outbound to inbound places more value on cultivating meaningful relationships with your target audience. Your online presence becomes your introduction to your target market and your means for forging stronger connections that will lead to sales.