2014-19-September-Hugs.jpgEffective content marketing can revolutionize the way we sell. The Corporate Executive Board (CEB) reported that 53 percent of organizations select and stay with a vendor based on sales experience over factors such as product features or price. Customer loyalty is driven by the sales experience, yet sales leaders continue to arm sales teams with the same content portals and tools as they have for years. Buying has evolved, but selling has not. It’s time for a change and content marketing can help sales get there.

Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as the practice of attracting and retaining customers by consistently creating and curating relevant and valuable content. As a marketer, I would add that targeted and personalized content is the next level of content marketing that is required today.

In the age of Amazon we've come to expect a tailored, customized experience when we make a purchase -- business or personal -- even if we’re purchasing something off the shelf. For example, if two consumers decide to purchase Bluetooth speakers, on the surface it may appear that they are buying the same item; however, Amazon will create a unique experience for each buyer in part by offering different recommended products and payment options. While we all may make similar purchases, our purchase experience is tailored to our likes and previous experiences.

Why don’t sales leaders support their sellers to provide the same level of experience?

Sellers need the right content at the right time to be able to create value for buyers. Gone are the days of features and benefit sheets. Sales reps now need to create value in the eyes of the buyer that is unique and different from the other prospects looking for the same or similar solutions. To do this, sales leaders need to provide their teams with personalized content and help guide selling behaviors to ensure a continuous focus on the customer.

Contextual Personalized Content

We're not talking mail merges here. Personalization means leveraging data -- often big data -- to create truly personal content for buyers. CEB also found that 57 percent of the buying process is complete before a customer talks to a supplier. Utilizing data from CRM systems, marketing automation systems, Google Analytics and a myriad of other sources enables sales reps to thoroughly understand a prospect before they speak to them, as well as provide them with most relevant content. In addition to including data specific to a buyer’s demographic, content should naturally sync with where the buyer is in the purchase process and apprise the seller about how to best approach the sale.

In order to stay ahead of the buyer evolution, companies must incorporate technology that can automate the process of collecting, assembling and distributing contextual personalized content to sales reps in ways that enable them to create valuable conversations with buyers.

Better Sales Experiences

Content can’t do it alone. Sales reps need to be able to apply content in a way that is targeted, contextual and personal to the buyer and his/her purchasing situation. The more relevant sales reps can be with their insights, the greater likelihood they will establish themselves as the trusted advisor all reps aspire to become. Sales reps need to think about content as more than just finished documents stored somewhere for download and email. By inputting data into a CRM system or Sales Playbook solution, a rep can make content come alive for a buyer through more poignant conversations and a better sales experience.

Buyers expect advice and information to help support their purchase decisions. Just as most organizations have some sort of team selling environment, so too do sales reps require experts in responding to RFPs, solution consultants and other subject-matter experts to help address a buyer’s needs. This means content needs to be collaborative in terms of applying data from multiple inputs and allowing for more than one person to contribute in order to gain the benefit of a group’s mindshare.

Organizations -- not just content marketers -- need to think holistically about using content marketing practices and assets in the sales environment in ways that create unique selling experiences. Those who don’t will run the risk of getting stuck in a habitual rut. In the changing world of intensified competition and innovation, the “if it’s not working, keep doing it” mindset won’t get sales teams anywhere fast. Those who get trapped in this mindset are ignoring the selling revolution and will perpetually find themselves trying to catch up.

Title image by jjjj56cp (Flickr) via a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license