I recently came across some research from the Information Technology Services Marketing Association and RainToday.com that offers great advice to thought leadership marketers: how successful firms fill their sales pipelines.
Know your target market
Successful firms know their prospects well: they’ve done their research so they know the names of the firms they should be targeting, the titles of the decision makers at those firms, and the actual names of the decision makers. Successful firms are knowledgeable about their prospects’ industries as well, especially the specific business challenges that they face. This knowledge is critical for creating the kinds of relevant value propositions that you need to capture the attention of your prospects.
Provide relevant content at each stage of the buying cycle
Successful firms understand that prospects are looking for relevant content, content that directly addresses their business challenges. This means that you need to know what issues are important to your prospects and then develop great content that meets those information needs. In particular, successful firms stand out in their markets because they offer insight into emerging business issues and market trends, as well as insight into possible solutions that might solve their prospects’ business problems.
Give prospects a taste of your brand
Prospects are never certain about what they’re going to get if they buy from you. So offering a taste of what you might provide them goes a long way towards making them a customer. Successful firms provide that taste by holding or sponsoring conferences and seminars, publishing articles or white papers, and engaging in truly consultative sales calls — all content heavy experiences.
Nurture leads with multiple touches
Successful firms nurture leads over time, with multiple “touches” to help warm up the prospects to their sales message. Two tactics in particular are cited in the research as best practices — get your company thought leaders in front of prospects with an active speaker program, and have your marketing department nurture your leads before handing them over to sales.
Use professional sales people
Successful firms have a staff of dedicated sales professionals and not just experts or managers who take on the sales role. Success means having the right people in the right roles.