If you practice yoga or see a chiropractor, you probably hear a lot of talk about alignment. But do you think about it when it comes to your business? There are a lot of alignment opportunities in business, and you probably don’t need a yoga teacher or chiropractor for those (although I highly recommend both, for life in general). Alignment is important when it comes to your team, your messaging, your target market, your partners, your investors and so much more.
Yesterday, I spent part of my day participating in a client's sales orientation and training for its new hires. In preparation for that, I have spent quite a bit of time creating a sales playbook to support their efforts. With all of that in mind, its a perfect opportunity to talk about the importance of aligning your content and sales strategies. In this case, alignment starts with an understanding of your buyers, an understanding of the different stages of your sales cycle and good, relevant content. If customers, sales and revenue are part of your business model (if not, you probably have bigger problems to worry about), you need a content strategy that aligns with your overall sales strategy.
The buyer’s journey can be a long and winding road. There are many stops along the way. Think of each one of those stops (or stages) as an opportunity to engage with your customers.
How do you do that?
You start by mapping out your sales funnel, which consists of the different stages a buyer goes through leading up to their purchase. I recommend keeping that simple, especially if you are just starting this process. And, while it is called a “sales” funnel, it should really be at the heart of your marketing content strategy.
One size does not fit all. You can’t create one piece of content and expect it to work for each stage of the sales cycle. When the buyer makes a stop on that long and winding road, it’s your job to give them what they need to move forward, toward a purchase of your product or service.
Lets walk through three basic stages of the sales cycle. I'll remind you of one that sometimes gets overlooked. Then, I'll offer suggestions for content you can create to engage with buyers every step of the way.
At Stage One (aka Top of the Funnel), the buyer is in discovery and research mode. They are on a fact-finding mission. As a result, this is an opportunity for shorter, top-level educational content. These “buyers” are not here to buy a product, yet. Instead, they are interested in learning more about how you can solve their problem, respond to industry changes, create new opportunities, etc.
Content ideas include:
- Short blog posts that focus on broader industry-wide problems, trends, etc.
- Educational webinars – also focusing on broader, industry-wide problems, trends, etc.
- Survey results
- Educational ebook
- 7 steps to XXX
- 5 steps XXX
Here is a valuable tip for you. Stage One is the perfect opportunity to weed out inappropriate leads so you don’t spend additional time and resources pursuing them.
In Stage Two (middle of the funnel), your buyers are focused on evaluation. They know they need a solution and are now considering your product or service as an option. This is where they start eliminating solutions that are not a good fit. Here, you should focus more on product/features/benefits, including key competitive differentiators. The goal is to help them understand that you offer the best solution for their problem. You should also look at this stage as an opportunity to build trust with the buyer. They want to know you are in it for the long haul.
Content ideas for Stage Two include:
- Demo offer
- ROI calculator
- Full customer case studies (key to building trust)
- Product-specific webinars/white papers
- Data Sheets/Specialized flyers
Stage Three (bottom of the funnel) is the conversion stage. At this point, prospects are ready to buy and your product is a top contender. The goal is to create content to help close that deal. This is an opportunity to reinforce your unique value proposition, highlight your unique expertise and other long-term value-adds that go beyond just a product, with the goal of building a long-term relationship.
Content ideas for Stage Three might include:
- Expert Resource/Thought Leadership Content – customers want to do business with someone who knows them and knows their industry. Use this as a key competitive differentiator to close the deal.
- Presentations for sales calls/meetings
- Free trial offer to solidify the relationship
- Limited time discount offers or special value-add offers (additional on-site training, etc.) to create a sense of urgency
- Competitive matrix reinforcing why your product/company is superior.
- Content that highlights customer service, ease of implementation/training, etc., demonstrating “value-adds” that supports that long-term relationship.
- “How-to” content (guides, videos, webinars, etc.
Stage Four is what I like to call “Beyond the Funnel.” Believe it or not, some people forget to continue engaging with their customers after the contract is signed. You worked hard to close the deal. You and the customer are both invested in this long-term relationship and you can’t take that for granted.
Things go wrong. Contracts expire. Contacts leave.
You must continue investing in your relationships by creating content that facilitates ongoing communication, furthers engagement, and solidifies customer references/evangelists.
Content ideas for Stage Four include:
- Community-focused content
- Best practices
- How-to guides
- Tips and tricks
- Customer spotlights
- Product pipeline input
- Product updates/sneak peaks
This is also a great time to think about hosting customer roundtables or creating customer advisory groups.
I hope you find this post helpful and that you are now well on your way to creating alignment in your business. An audit of your existing content would be a great place to start.
If you need a little help with that, let me know.
Just think of me as your strategic communications yogi.