Content marketing was considered a new concept a few years ago, and is now crucial for small businesses if they are to remain profitable in 2015 and beyond. This is due to a dramatic shift in the sales process, and the education of consumers to a level that has never before been seen. While businesses traditionally viewed sales as the acquisition of leads then the education of that lead as to the products and services that the company offers, the new landscape of sales involves the actual interaction between the customer and the business at a far later stage, nearly eliminating the education necessity on the sales team’s part, due to the fact that the majority of consumers now already know about your products. They did the research on their own, and they are already informed as far as what you can offer them.
While this shift may seem scary to many businesses, it is actually quite beneficial to the process if your company understands how content marketing is utilized and how the sales process is affected by it. The best place to start in a discussion of effective content marketing is by defining exactly what it is, and discussing how it is involved in the sales process in the modern world. “Content marketing” is a process that was developed by SEO companies like ourselves, in reaction to Google’s shift away from the methods that traditionally influenced rankings and into a more evolved understanding of how to assess an expert on a subject through the information that is presented by that person or entity online. For the most part, online means your website or social media space that is clearly the area that you utilize to attract potential customers. While simply having a website is a good starting point for any business, so that the sales team can point potential leads to a space where more information on the company can be found, the places on Google where the website itself is ranked have become crucial to gain and maintain in order to attract potential customers who are in the decision-process, but who have not had direct contact with your company. This is a simple concept involving “being found online” as the majority of research on any subject is now heavily done on the internet. Search engines are the most convenient form of distilling information into a manageable list, and as a result your business absolutely needs to be presented on the first few pages of a search engine when a customer looks for your products, if you are going to be on the list of companies they choose from when they decide. This presentation on a search engine for a specific term that is a product or service you provide is known as “rankings,” and is defined as the position that your website comes up within that search in relation to all the other websites that provide the same product or service. Customers will generally choose to research only the first few results that Google presents them, and will make their choice from those companies. If you are not within those first few results, you are not on the consideration list. From that point, the typical customer reads a few sections of the websites that look appealing or knowledgeable, narrowing their list to the few possibilities that seems to be the “best” from the standpoint of knowledge, convenience and price. That potential customer will contact the choices they have made only at that point. Notice that a salesman has not been involved in this process at all to this point, and the potential customer has gained far more knowledge on the subject than at any point in history. That customer probably knows everything they need to know already, and their decision is nearly made by the time they pick up the phone.
The way that this corresponds with Google and getting presented online for consideration by customers is that the shift for the last few years on Google’s part has been to figure out ways to present the “most authority on a subject” or the “best information on a topic” in the top results. This means that Google is understanding the information on your website and judging your knowledge of the subject as compared to your competition, then ranking those websites by who they feel is presenting the best information on that subject. In years past, a website that was heavily sales-oriented would present products and information like prices, in order to bait an interaction with the sales team. The information on the website was kept purposely thin in order to force that customer to interact with the trained sales staff who could close the deal. Today, Google chooses not to rank websites that are thin on information in good positions, essentially removing those companies from the consideration list. Your sales staff never gets the call because the customer never found your site. Because Google favors information on the subject in order to rank your website high, it fits perfectly into the new “content marketing” process that consumers are using. Google ranks your website in a good position because of all of the information on the product or service that you offer, the customer chooses to view that content as part of their decision-making process, and calls you after doing the research that makes them feel you are the best in the field. Without content which leads to rankings which leads to customers, you are not in the discussion.
Customers today are highly informed due to the availability of information on the internet. Gone are the days when a company could do things that were unseen by the public, thanks to social media, review and testimonial websites, and online chatter. In the past it had to be assumed that the customer needed to be informed as to your products and services and how they would benefit by using them, but today the customer already knows this information and only needs to understand why they should choose you over another company.It has been researched and found that buyers today are anywhere between two-thirds and 90% of the way through the sales process before they ever contact a vendor. Potential buyers are educating themselves via content about products and companies, and it is estimated that many buyers will engage with more than 10 pieces of online content before ever contacting a vendor.
What does this mean for your sales process?
Because buyer behavior is changing so quickly, a shift in marketing and sales behavior needs to follow. Businesses need to work continually on shaping the message their buyers will encounter in the content that is provided on the website, social media accounts, email marketing efforts, and any other online space where information can be positioned. With that said, here are a few ways that content marketing ideas can be implemented into your modern sales strategy:
Your online presence must be a source of insight and add value.
Buyers are checking Google Reviews, Yelp and many of the other review websites to do research on you before they ever call. These buyers do not need to hear how great your products are, they already know. At this stage they need to know that your company is the best choice for providing those products. Pushing your products and services on consumers is no longer working, and today’s informed buyer wants to know how you can help them solve an issue. They are short on time, and want to look to you to provide the information they are seeking. Use contact points like phone calls, emails, and social media to connect customers with the content that solves their needs.
Solve problems instead of seeking referrals.
The old sales process put relationships ahead of information, and a salesman’s job was to cultivate the friendships and interactions that would make buyers comfortable with the company they were dealing with. Today’s world is far less interactive in person, and many people have vast networks of “friends” online that they have never actually met. The process has to shift to a salesman being a source of solutions and information that can help the consumer solve a problem. That is your level of interaction with many potential buyers today, you are simply a source that will make their lives easier. Understanding your position to them is crucial to the shape your content will take.
This new type of sales process seems to leave the traditional salesman in the dark, yet if a company can shift his role from that of a product pusher to that of a source of valuable information that can fill in the small blanks that still exist when a customer contacts the business directly, then his role is still quite valuable. The company is the source of information and value, the salesman is an extension of that role. The entire process that gains the interaction of the salesman is driven by the content that is found online by your customers, provided by you or about you by past customers. Be part of that process and as a result Google will provide you with the leads that are searching for you.
Content marketing programs are a specialty of Focus Internet Services. We can be contacted via phone at 702-997-1252 or through our website at https://www.focusinternetservices.com to arrange a free consultation.