Tue, 4th January, 2011 - Posted by
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.
For more information
Tue, 8th December, 2009 - Posted by
We’ve all come to realize how difficult it is to market our products and services in today’s economy. Marketing budgets have been dramatically cut. Prospects are taking longer to buy. Buyers are buying less. That said, I have some recommendations for you to start the new year with a bang.
Develop a post-recession content marketing strategy based on your capabilities and risk profile. Think through your strategy carefully, but once you decide on it, stick to it and develop strong initiatives to implement it. Three possible strategies you can choose are:
- Strategy 1: Take advantage of the opportunity. It’s well documented that companies that market aggressively in a down economy can win big. Those that are in a good financial position or are willing to take some risks and put resources into content marketing have found that they can significantly increase their market share. Their competitors are too busy cutting and wondering why they’re losing business. With this strategy you’ll have a well-balanced mix of initiatives that deliver short-term results as well as position you for long-term success. As I think you can tell, this is my favorite.
- Strategy 2: Focus on short-term results. With this strategy most of your initiatives are focused on delivering results now. It’s the strategy that I see adopted most often, but it comes at the expense of long-term growth.
- Strategy 3: Minimize your losses. If you are risk-averse, or if you just don’t have the resources to invest now, this is your likely strategy. Just make sure that any cuts you make are strategic (you have a well-documented business reason for making the cuts) rather than off-the-cuff. With this strategy you’ll focus on being efficient and create initiatives that rely on effort rather than cash.
Once you’ve developed your strategy for the new year, it’s time to think about how you’ll implement it. There are three concepts you should keep in mind as you make your plans: Change, Focus, Engagement.
Recognize that buyers and markets have changed
- Really understand what your prospects and customers need. Tactics: Brainstorm with your sales force and others in your organization who touch your customers and prospects; directly interview and/or survey your customers and prospects; listen to what your customers and prospects are saying in their communities (social networks, professional meetings, etc.).
- Clarify your value proposition given the new economic environment. Tactics: Insure that you are meeting the emotional needs of your prospects and customers; offer proof points on the value that you deliver.
- Market appropriately during different stages of the buying cycle. Tactics: Insure that you have the right content for each stage: Educational and thought leadership content at the beginning stages (status quo, problem recognition, and investigation) and persuasive and technical content at the latter stages (evaluation, selection, validation, buy).
Focus on improving your current practices
- Concentrate on retaining your existing customers. Tactics: Regularly engage your customers with valuable content using newsletters; develop an online community to bring your prospects and customers together to exchange ideas.
- Review supplier relationships. Tactics: Renegotiate current contracts—look for better pricing, better terms, more value; look for new suppliers that offer better value.
- Insure that your sales and marketing functions are integrated. Tactics: Insure that the groups work as a team—marketing providing sales with appropriate content and sales providing marketing with accurate customer data; provide incentives for both groups to work together.
Actively engage with your prospects and customers
- Emphasize relationship-based strategies. Tactics: Create content that is geared towards nurturing leads, steering them through the buying cycle; actively engage in personal networking to better understand your prospects and customers and to develop trusting relationships that lead to sales.
- Make sure each customer touch is performing a marketing function. Tactics: Have content that positions your brand during sales, service, delivery, follow-up, transaction, billing; use internal communications to get all employees on the same page.
- Embrace digital technology. Tactics: It’s time to twitter (you’re already on LinkedIn and blogging, right?); use email marketing for the best ROI (and make sure you drive people to an effective landing page).