Aligning Content Strategy with the Sales Cycle

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

Stage one

Your prospect

Doing business as usual

Your job

Tantalise

Your focus

Build the case – show why companies are making the decision to change/evolve

Content ideas

  • 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

Stage two

Your prospect

Identifies it’s time to make a change to solve a business problem or increase effectiveness

Your job

Educate

Your focus

Show them how they can do this and what they will gain – answering the most important question – what business problem do you solve?

Content ideas

  • 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

Stage three

Your prospect

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?

Your job

Educate and Prove

Your focus

Continue to build the case and show them success stories, detailing tangible business benefits

Content ideas

  • 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…

Stage four

Your prospect

The customer is now considering all of the options

Your job

Partner

Your focus

Keep the proof coming via multiple platforms and take prospects through all steps to success 

Content ideas

  • 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

Stage five

Your prospect

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

Your job

Prove

Your focus

Keep building depth and background – show them that they can’t fail, steps to success, etc…

Content ideas

  • 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

Stage six

Your prospect

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?

Your job

Partner

Your focus

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

Content ideas

  • 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

Stage seven

Your prospect

The contract is awarded

Your job

Partner

Your focus

Build a relationship beyond the sale – they are now a content/marketing resource for you

Content ideas

  • 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?

Andrea Edwards

Managing Director

SAJE

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2 Comments

Filed under Content and Context

2 responses to “Aligning Content Strategy with the Sales Cycle

  1. Pingback: Burson Marsteller Report on Social in Asia | SAJE… Communication

  2. Pingback: Content Marketing in Asia Pacific Slow to Evolve | SAJE… Communication

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