Content Marketing + B2B Sales Strategy = Success

While many B2B companies know the importance of content marketing, relatively few know how to properly integrate it into their sales strategy for maximum effectiveness. This is a situation often encountered by David Raab, veteran marketing analyst and principal of Raab Associates.

In a presentation given in conjunction with TreeHouse Interactive, David explained just how B2B businesses could integrate content marketing into their sales strategies:

Modify design processes

Many sales teams move their customers through a sales process, which is under constant review and revision as the team learns more about the customer and as the industry changes. As you design these processes and move customers through them, check if there’s any available content that can help influence the customer’s decision—whether promotional or educational.

But how can you know for sure if you need to create something from scratch or if you already have useful content available? By…

Creating a shared, searchable content repository

If you want your sales team to take advantage of your content, you have to make it readily available. That means a searchable, shared, and up-to-date library of every piece of content you create. The easier your content is to access, the more likely your sales team is to use it.

Integrated content planning matrix

Remember the first point, about modifying the design of your sales process? Well, you can do it the other way around, too. Take a look at your sales process and make a note of which steps need more content coverage. The fewer gaps you have, the better!

Track responses

Do your leads find your content useful or not? How does it affect their buying decisions? Tracking responses is critical to keeping your content relevant and timely. Have your sales team inquire about the content or send a quick survey.

Visit the TreeHouse resource library for the on demand presentation.

How to Get the Full Value from your MAP Software in 2015

A marketing automation platform (MAP) is a significant investment, yet few marketers get the full value. They limp through the year with a barely used MAP, and are then hard-pressed to justify the expense during the next year’s budget review.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Try a New Feature Every Week

Most marketing automation platforms come with a powerful suite of marketing automation tools. Unfortunately, not all marketers make use of the entire collection. In fact, many just stick to a familiar few and don’t even try out the rest. How do you know if a tool will be effective if you don’t try it out? The feature you’re ignoring could be the one to take your marketing to the next level.

But don’t just toy around with a feature for an hour and drop it. Make a commitment to try one new feature for a week every week. And ”trying” doesn’t just mean clicking a few buttons and opening a couple of menus. Spend the week learning about the feature. Examine use cases. Do trial runs and (if possible) create an actual scenario. You’ll learn more if you see it running in real life.

Then, at the end of the week, you’ll have a much more informed and realistic assessment of whether or not that particular feature works for you.

Expand Your Strategy to Match

Of course, using tools just for the sake of using them isn’t recommended. You need to first understand the features and capabilities and see how it can play into your current marketing strategy. If possible, you then expand your strategy in a way that you can make use of these tools. For instance, you have great content, but it just sits on your website. Using the MAP’s nurturing tools allows you to expand your content marketing strategy and push information out to customers in a timely manner. 

Also, good MAPs have tools that are meant to work together, not piecemeal. Using a collection of complementary MAP features will get you much more value than using them separately. Explore how the features connect, and you may get powerful results.

Include Others in the Loop

Marketing departments shouldn’t operate in a vacuum, and neither should your MAP. Marketing automation platforms can benefit teams across the entire organization, not just your own. For instance, the best MAPs include an option to integrate with CRMs to allow both the marketing and sales departments to share leads. Some MAPs also offer tools like surveys to collect customer feedback, which would be valuable to share with product development teams.

If you can incorporate more MAP features into your workflow, create supporting strategies, and integrate with more internal teams, you’ll be able to increase your marketing department’s value dramatically. Do it intelligently and consistently, and your marketing automation platform’s ROI will be measured in months, not years.

How to Nurture Customers Without Doing a Thing

Nurturing campaigns are an excellent way to build a relationship with your prospect, without the “hard sell” tactics that may turn off a prospect. In it, you guide the prospect through the discovery process, feeding them whatever information that might interest them and being there when it’s time to close the deal.

Nurturing campaigns are tricky, because you need to be able to maintain a delicate touch, while being a constant presence, over a period of time. And when you have multiple prospects on a nurturing campaign, things can get complicated pretty fast.

That’s why automated nurture campaigns are the way to go. Many marketing automation platforms (MAPs) have features that take the pain out of nurturing campaigns and increase their effectiveness. They do this by:  

Collecting Prospect Behavioral Data

Most MAPs can tell plenty about a prospect’s behavior from a single email. Not only can you tell who opened an email, you can also see what particular links were clicked and how long they spent at that web page. Form submissions and responses can give insight on what a prospect finds important, and what the next step in the nurturing campaign should be.  

Guiding Prospects Intelligently

Armed with the information above, marketers can now set rules on the MAP to determine which nurturing email should be sent next. If the prospect expressed interest in saving money, then Email A should be sent next. If the prospect values convenience, then Email B would cater to that message. 

It’s a complex chain of branching reactions, but once it’s set up the marketer doesn’t need to do anything at all. The MAP system automatically guides the prospect down the path. 

Alerting the Right People

Automating the nurturing process means you can instantly notify the right people at the right stage in the process. When the prospect reaches a certain step, like downloading a whitepaper, you can instantly notify the right sales rep. That sales rep will then contact the prospect while the whitepaper is fresh in their minds. 

Nurturing campaigns result in more engaged and higher quality leads. And the better you are at helping them move down the funnel, the higher chance you have of getting them to commit to a purchase. Marketing automation platforms can help you execute nurturing campaigns that are timely, consistent, and effective, and can drastically improve your conversion rate. 

You Bought a MAP Solution! Now What?

Getting a new Marketing Automation Platform solution is a lot like getting a new tool kit. The moment you finish basking in its new-ness, you start looking for something—anything—to fix. As you DIY dads out there can testify, the urge to go and do something with your new tools is almost overpowering. It doesn’t matter if it’s tightening a few pipes or sending a few A/B emails. You want to take it out for a spin. And that’s okay. 

But what happens afterwards? You shove it in the broom closet and forget about it until something breaks. All those fancy tools, and you still only use it to fix the odd chair or send an occasional email campaign. Which is a shame, because MAP’s have the potential for so much more. 

Map Out the Possibilities

To really get the most out of your MAP toolkit, you have to create a plan that makes the most of what you have. Each of your MAP’s components has their respective strengths, weaknesses, and purposes. You can’t just use a lead scoring system on a few customers and expect results. You have to determine how you’re going to implement it across your database, figure out how to collect the relevant data, and strategize on how your sales team can best use it. 

And remember: while it’s important to use your MAP’s features to their best advantage, it’s even more important to use them to your best advantage. Use features in a manner relevant to your market. If your customers aren’t big on mobile marketing, then don’t waste energy on it.   

Which brings me to my next point:

It’s for the Customers, Not You

Yes, you’re going to be the one implementing your new MAP, executing your campaigns with it, and justifying the expense to management. But keep in mind that all of this is for the customer’s benefit. 

So as you create A/B emails and auto-responders and landing pages, keep this question in mind: “what will my customers experience?”

The MAP’s ultimate purpose is to help you give customers an enriching experience with your brand, whether that’s through learning about popular sale items or being taught the best way to use their new purchase. 

So go ahead and tinker with your new toolkit. Get comfortable with it. Explore its strengths and specialties. But while you do, do it in the context of improving your relationships with your customers and leads. Then, when your marketing strategies start taking a more solid shape, you’ll be able to steer them in the proper direction right from the start.