In a recent blog I talked about using the customers’ “language” as a key component in succeeding with your content strategy, and the next step – planning your content strategy around every stage of the sales cycle.
We are all aware that prospects are relying on a broader array of information sources in the research stage than ever before. We are also aware that customers are more likely to seek advice and information within their trusted peer communities long before speaking to a sales person – one of the big changes. And finally, we know that the way to win hearts and minds is to share real value throughout every step of the sales cycle, because that is how you can influence prospects to make the final decision to buy “your” product or service.
Times are changing and it’s now about meeting prospects along the way with different types of high value content to support their decision making process. It seems like a huge challenge, but the reality is, once you simplify it, plan your content strategy with this in mind, wrap your content deliverables around each step and finally, set realistic expectations and measurement criteria, you’ll be on your way.
So we ask the question – with so many discussions taking place outside of your organisation – how do you get your product/solution considered, often when you don’t even have the opportunity to speak to them?
You become an information resource of value – that’s what you do.
How do you do that? Here’s SAJE’s take on the seven stages of the sales cycle, the four actions to map to it, recommended focus for each step, and finally, some content suggestions to help you achieve those goals.
Seven stages of sales
Doing business as usual
Build the case – show why companies are making the decision to change/evolve
- Early adopter case studies
- Whitepaper introducing the full solution and business benefits
- Webinar introducing the concept – business benefits focused
- Blog answering Q&As that came up in the Webinar
- Additional blogs – build the story and educate + feature customer interviews if you have them
- Press releases on wins
- PR coverage in relevant press
Identifies it’s time to make a change to solve a business problem or increase effectiveness
Show them how they can do this and what they will gain – answering the most important question – what business problem do you solve?
- Infographic detailing the big picture
- Case studies relevant to their sector/country – local content is vital
- A series of detailed white papers on relevant topics within the big picture – prospects will supply contact information IF this content is high value = early sales contact
- Webinars / events / industry events / sponsorships / tradeshows / exhibitions / speaking platforms
- Promote relevant market research to prospects/customers – links to valued sources outside your company
They ask the question – what do we need to know, who can provide that information and who can we speak to within our broader business community to get great advice?
Educate and Prove
Continue to build the case and show them success stories, detailing tangible business benefits
- Be active in social media forums. Join and start discussions – become people of value. Also an opportunity to measure the “mood” towards your brand
- Evangelistic customers active in social media can assist
- Comment on external industry blogs/social media sites
- Find top influencers – including non-conventional influencers and speak to them, teach them – get them on side
- Customised market research can be a great vehicle to promote right now – you can also blog about it, get PR coverage, etc…
- Whitepapers / case studies / articles / PR / interviews / blogs / newsletters / etc…
The customer is now considering all of the options
Keep the proof coming via multiple platforms and take prospects through all steps to success
- If you haven’t done it already, case studies and proof points
- Customer evangelists – interview them for your company blog or newsletter
- Issue interviews through email campaign and bring prospects back to your site
- Podcasts or Webinars featuring top customers or external influencers, such as industry analysts, professors, etc…
- Short, snappy videos or podcasts of success stories
- PR relevant market research highlighting trends in your business area
But wait a minute; am I going to lose my job if I make that decision? OR the CEO just asked me a question and I don’t know the answer, better go back and check on the research I’ve done to find that answer. I don’t want to look foolish or make a mistake after all – it might cost me my job
Keep building depth and background – show them that they can’t fail, steps to success, etc…
- High value content – such as whitepapers
- C-level information – high level, strategic, business-focused content targeted at executive level decision makers
- Case studies on relevant sectors and countries is vital – please don’t forget local content
- PR interviews with customers
- Customer presentations at industry-specific events
- Evangelistic customers active in social media can help build your profile
- Use your industry champions – those outside your business who love you and get them in on the action – writing articles, blogging, expressing views in discussion forums, etc..
- Q&A on the common questions that have been asked and the best generic answers to help prospects
Once all issues are resolved, the customer creates a shortlist. This details who is capable of delivering exactly what they need, but the most important part in the equation is the answer to this question – which supplier is going to deliver exactly what we need, partner with us to make sure it works, support us, make our lives easy and make us look good?
Be responsive and pro-active, send high value information to make their decision easier, show them that you will be a partner and the most important thing – you understand their business and the challenges they face
- What do they need to know to make the final decision? Where are the gaps? Sell the value. Blog about the relevant topics and issues prospects are facing – be broad for some and focused for others
- If not already, C-level information – high level, strategic, business-focused content to help support them making a decision to buy your solution
- Focus on the relationship and show them you are a partner of value – be 100% attentive and responsive at this point – make sure any responses are relevant, accurate and meet their needs
- Send them articles, interviews, videos, podcasts of industry specialists outside of your company – keep educating and supporting them
The contract is awarded
Build a relationship beyond the sale – they are now a content/marketing resource for you
- Opportunities for press releases, case study, interviews, media engagement, social media supporters, etc…
- Have a Q&A ready for all eventualities = partner
- Valuable resource for building future business AND there are opportunities for cross-selling and up-selling
Please note: this doesn’t include all content ideas, just a variety of potentials – as there are many more to consider. Also remember, variety really is the spice of life, as everyone absorbs information in different ways – something to always remember.
Tantalise, educate, partner and prove. I figured that was an easy way to think through your content strategy in alignment with the sales cycle. It’s a big topic for sure, and I can’t say it’s been an easy one to capture succinctly, but let me know what you think – I’d love to hear your thoughts or experiences in this area?
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Andrea is an award winning B2B communications professional with more than 23 years’ experience from around the globe, including 12 years exclusively in Asia Pacific. Focused principally in the ICT industry, Andrea has grown with the industry, and she has a proven talent to communicate with customers, prospects, stakeholders and influencers in a way that deeply resonates and gets results.
In her current role at Novus Asia, Andrea relishes sharing her passion for content marketing and its’ ability to fundamentally transform how businesses market to their customers. To be at the heart of this revolution in Asia, where every day she partners with inspired business leaders on their journey into a new era of business storytelling, is what drives her to achieve greater success. Additionally, Andrea understands that to succeed in content, professionals must be motivated and trained to build their personal brands to truly harness the amazing content being created for brands today.
Andrea was an early-adopter of blogging, authoring five very different blogs today, she’s a social media evangelist (a Top 100 Social Seller on LinkedIn in Singapore) and has had the great privilege to work around the world - EMEA, the US, ANZ and Asia.
Andrea’s core skill-set is communication excellence - she listens to and understands her customers, and is considered by many a positive disruptor in her field. She is constantly seeking to motivate colleagues, coaching and mentoring them to be more effective with their personal digital branding, as well as defining and executing communication strategies, content strategy, content creation, senior executive digital coaching, messaging and positioning, as well as a world-class business writer and story teller.
While Andrea’s career has been principally focused on ICT, she has also gained experience in other major industries, including defence, aerospace, government, travel & tourism, HR, environment, professional services, health, marketing services, financial services, and even the brewing industry. Andrea has been: Analyst Relations Lead for Microsoft Asia; Managing Director, SAJE, her own communications, content marketing & messaging agency; Director, Marketing Services for IDC Asia Pacific, Singaapore; Group Communications Manager for Baycorp Advantage, Sydney; Marketing Communications Consultant, ClearForest, NYC; Account Director with Text 100 International, Boston & London; a PR Consultant for various firms, London; Communications Co-ordinator, AeroSpace Technologies of Australia (now Boeing); and a Musician in the Australian Army, followed by PR representative for the Australian Defence Force PR Unit.
Andrea left Australia in 1995 to pursue her deep love of travel and archaeology, and she has a Bachelor of Arts from Monash University, majoring in music and archaeology.
You can follow Andrea on Twitter @AndreaTEdwards, her professional communications blog can be found at www.communicatingasiapacific.com, where she writes about global trends in content, content marketing, communications, social media and social business, translating global trends for Asian relevancy. And of course, you can find her on LinkedIn andreaedwardsasia.