Every B2B company that wants to drive leads and close sales needs to do content marketing. Why? Content is what educates prospective buyers when they’re researching a type of product or service – long before they’re ready to start speaking to sales reps. When you create content, you’re not just putting your company’s information out there, you’re fulfilling the needs of the people you want to please most, buyers. That’s why your content should offer value to them, by knowledge-sharing and helping them to make the best choices.
But what are you really doing it all for? What’s the endgame of content marketing? The answer is to generate sales qualified leads (SQLs) and ultimately drive revenue. There are a few different kinds of leads, from unqualified leads to marketing qualified leads (MQLs), but SQLs are unquestionably the cream of the crop. An SQL is a lead that is ready and willing to speak to a sales rep. By generating SQLs, content marketing has become the B2B sales rep’s new best friend – it gets their foot in the door with a highly qualified prospect who is ready to talk and listen. How does content marketing acquire these golden SQLs for the sales team?
The Power of Content Marketing
It’s a common misconception that content marketing is about putting out as much information as you can, scatter-shot fashion. It’s much more refined than that (or it should be). Content marketing entails creating the right copy, choosing the right medium and distributing it to the right people in the right channel at the right time. It’s made up of a host of marketing tactics, including blogs, articles, whitepapers, eBooks, infographics, videos, webinars and more. Its goal is to educate and inform, build a relationship between your brand and prospective buyers and guide them down the sales funnel.
If a prospect is engaging with your content and they match with one of your buyer profiles/personas they are considered a marketing qualified lead (MQL). The lead is warm, and it’s up to marketing to guide them down the sales funnel with specific and relevant content along the way. How? Marketing delivers next-stage content, follow-up emails and offers of more information, such as free demos, free trials, consultations, quotes and more. When the lead reaches out for any of those offers, marketing can then hand them over to sales as a primed and ready SQL.
When we asked CEOs/senior executives in our latest B2B Marketing Benchmark Study to indicate their three main goals for marketing this year, they responded with:
- Generate leads (87%)
- Increase brand awareness (47%)
- Improve conversion of opportunities to deals (44%)
Content marketing can do all of the above. That’s likely why 50% of B2B companies say they plan to increase their content marketing budgets this year, and the average spend on content marketing is as much as 33% of the overall marketing budget.
Content Needs To Have Value And Credibility To Generate Sales-Ready Leads
Unlike other types of lead generation, with content marketing you’re giving something to prospects rather than asking them for something. That’s why it’s so effective at building lead lists. But what you’re giving must be credible and provide value.
B2B buyers are looking for content from trustworthy sources, including industry thought leaders and peer recommendations, to help steer them along the path to purchase. Content marketing can help position your company as the expert in your field, building credibility and authority. Along the way, it also builds a sense of trust, making prospects more likely to call upon your sales reps when they are interested in learning more.
Case studies are also a wonderful way to create credible content that shows how your product or service has benefited real companies in the real world, with quotes from real customers. Nearly all B2B buyers (95%) say they view user-generated content, such as reviews and testimonials, as trustworthy. Case studies are the perfect vehicle for testimonials, and sales reps love them because they allow a current customer to do the boasting for them. Use case studies to illustrate challenges customers have faced, how your product or service has addressed those challenges and the measurable results achieved. Such user-focused content especially appeals to millennials, who will make up 75% of the workforce by 2025. They’ve grown up with constant opinion sharing on social media, and they expect the companies they do business with to have the same openness and transparency.
Your high-value content, including webinars, whitepapers, infographics and articles will help you collect information from your leads in simple form fills. In fact, when it comes to building qualified lead lists, webinars share the top spot with whitepapers, as 75% of B2B buyers say they would share more information about themselves and their company in exchange for this content. Keep your form fills simple so they don’t get frustrated and move on. And since 51% of B2B buyers feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of content available, it’s important to make yours stand out visually and include engaging hooks to pique their interest.
If done right, content marketing will help you guide prospective buyers through the funnel so that sales can concentrate on what they do best – closing. Marketing automation can help the process, by feeding prospects the right next-stage content and providing data to help you optimize your content marketing efforts.