Make Content Selling Part of your Marketing Strategy for 2014

I always enjoy diving into Matt Heinz’s blog.  He has great insights and helpful lists on marketing and sales approaches for B2B companies.  So this morning when LinkedIn recommended his latest blog post “Six marketing focus areas you’ll want to budget for in 2014” I had to a take a look.

First off, he focuses on the right things.  The force multipliers that can help marketing teams punch above their weight – like advocate marketing platforms that extend the reach of content and opinion.  And critically he concentrates on tools that do what matters most for fast-growing B2B companies: filling and accelerating the throughput of the pipeline.

But what I really noted in this read was the connection Content Selling has across three (at least!) of these priorities for 2014.  Content Selling helps sales people communicate winning messages that keep prospects engaged in the middle and bottom of the funnel.  Engaged prospects means faster moving pipeline and less drop-off.

So, let’s take a look at how success with three of Matt’s 2014 priorities can position you for Content Selling success.

2014 Priority #2. Content strategy

Matt rightly points out that having a content strategy is essential for any marketing team.  The same presentations, papers, blog posts, and videos that marketing produces for top of the funnel and nurture initiatives also have great value to the sales organization.

Proactive sales people have been taking advantage of the wealth of marketing content at their disposal for years to engage and challenge prospects.  But the challenge for these sales people is how to find and reuse the best and most targeted content for their prospects.  A Content Selling approach makes equipping sales people with your best content a priority.

Suggestion: As you build out your 2014 content strategy understand how your sales team will be able to leverage this content to engage prospects.

2014 Priority #3. Marketing automation support

Matt is correct when he says that marketing automation tools can’t be set on and left on their own.  They require regular tuning and a constant supply of compelling content.  Marketing automation helps to generate interest and identify hot prospects that sales can target.

When combined with a Content Selling approach, marketing automation becomes still more powerful.  When sales people interact on a personal basis with their prospects these actions must feed into lead scoring activities.  And critically, we need to know when prospects are engaging with your company and content.

Content Selling approaches identify when prospects not only open your emails; but also when they read your papers, watch your videos, and how engaged they are with that content.  That kind of engagement is what flags a highly motivated prospect that needs urgent attention.

Suggestion: Connect your Content Selling approach to your marketing automation tool so that middle and bottom of funnel interactions are still more richly scored.

2014 Priority #5. Sales enablement tools

I love that sales enablement tools are included in Matt’s list.  Marketing must be focused on the whole lead-to-revenue cycle, not just the top of funnel.  That means that the sales and marketing partnership is vital at every step of the buyer’s journey.

Content Selling bridges that gap.  It does so because sales people already “filter the noise and find for themselves buying signals from their existing networks.”  Buying signals can be found in a number of ways, for instance based on changes to a buyer’s job, or a prospect company’s new acquisition.  Content Selling suggests that prospects are more interested in your space when they engage with sometimes challenging, always relevant content.

But how can you set up guardrails to help sales team use current, accurate, and useful content?  It’s important that you help sales teams to find and use the content that’s useful to them.  Content Selling approaches help you do that.

Suggestion: Recognize that sales people will self-serve tools.  Find out what need they are filling and look to replicate where appropriate with standardized and flexible approaches.

Your marketing team has a lot on its plate for 2014.  Look for priorities that can address multiple needs.