How To Use Content Marketing To Sell: A Guide For Inside Sales Teams
It’s time to take your content marketing strategy from a first-touch conversion channel to a last-touch one. Content marketing has all the makings of a powerful conversion channel that can drive your sales strategy.
Read on to find out why (plus a few tips on how to get your sales team started with content marketing).
Why content marketing can increase sales
In an age where people spend more time online than ever, the days of attracting customers through traditional means such as billboards and window displays are fading away.
Content marketing is the internet version of stopping people on the streets to promote a product or service by talking about it. Safe to say, content marketing is great for raising brand awareness. But that’s not all. Content marketing can supercharge your sales strategy because it helps:
- Demonstrate various use cases of your products, services, and business offerings
- Build a brand community of loyal customers and advocates
- Inform customers about new offerings by leveraging upselling and cross-selling tactics
- Generate and boost conversions by acting as conversion machines
So, how do you build a great strategy?
How to design a sales-focused content marketing strategy
Brands have several content marketing channels at their disposal (though it takes a while to master any of them). Here are some channels you should consider:
- Blogs: the O.G. content marketing channel for brands worldwide is still numero uno in driving traffic and boosting conversions. Start a blog in as few as five steps. You can go as broad or niche as you want with blog topics.
Example: Take Xero – an accounting software targeted to small businesses, for example. Their site offers an exhaustive catalog of blogs on topics meant for several distinct types of audiences: accountants, small businesses, freelancers, etc.
But it doesn’t always have to be self-serving. One of their recent blogs was a timely post around International Volunteer Day. It covered which charities Xero’s employees engaged with most in 2021 and how their customers can support them.
- Podcasts: The last couple of years has seen the podcast industry double in size, with new creators and brands entering the space every day. Looking at the list of Webby Awards 2021 for Best Branded podcasts, one can see several familiar names such as Hinge, Headspace, Nike, etc. Media companies like Spotify have invested half a billion dollars in podcast company acquisitions to become a leader in this space. Podcasting is a low-cost but high on time-investment content marketing channel. All you need is $200 for a mic, audio editing software to get started, and great content to fuel it. There are also plenty of webinar software services to get you started if you’d like to perform your podcasts live.
- Videos: YouTube and affordable production tech have democratized the video creation space. Comedy skits, awesome explainer videos, and GRWM videos quickly made for hyper-niche segments that have become crucial for conversion funnels. For example, an English tutoring service has millions of views on simple topics like ‘Understanding Road Signs in US and UK.’ The videos help the business demonstrate the competency and quality of their tutors, and for someone looking to invest in one-on-one tutoring (which can be expensive!), these can help get them to hit that ‘book’ button.
Content marketing is a rich space with various avenues that require low to medium to high effort. With meticulous time budgeting and content planning, growing your content marketing channel will pay off.
Step 2. Research potential topics and keywords
Always be on the lookout for a niche. At any given moment, Google is processing up to 63,000 searches (assuming an average person performs three to four searches a day). All you need to do is identify what kind of information they are seeking.
Look at the list of Google suggestions that pop up when searching for ‘how to increase sales for …’ and read the auto-completed queries. Then, you could write a blog and video on say, ‘how to increase sales for a salon,’ and you churn out a host of content for which there’s a proven demand.
A few ways to research topics and keywords are:
- Google auto-complete: Start typing a question in the search bar, and the auto-complete feature will give you a shortlist of top queries personalized on your location and search history.
- Customer feedback: Ask your existing clients about their favorite features or services. Additionally, ask around inside your sales team.
- Pain points: Are there any features or services you could be offering or gaps in your delivery? Are your customers struggling with some features – pain points that could be alleviated by addressing them? For example, if your clients often ask about ‘how can I download social media performance reports in pdf,’ you could write and record explainer content detailing how to do that step-by-step.
- Tools: Those who have access to competitor and keyword research tools can churn content faster than others, so it might be worth looking into buying a basic subscription plan of tools such as Moz SEO, Hootsuite, SEMRush, etc.
Step 3. Craft search-optimized or SEO-first content
Creating discoverable content requires more than just being out there first. Optimizing content for search can help expand your audience beyond your email marketing lists of existing clients.
The most proven ways to leverage SEO marketing include mapping primary and secondary keywords and carefully optimizing on-page content like headers and descriptions.
As Google launches more search products across its spectrum of apps, the avenues for SEO open.
For example, YouTube indexes ‘chapters’ (their term for timestamps) in videos, so make sure you’re adding keyword-optimized titles to different sections of your YouTube video (especially if it is longer than three minutes). Since YouTube video results are pushed above the fold, there’s a higher chance that people will find the video before they find the related blog.
You can apply the same principle to all types of content – not just blogs.
Include target keywords in alt-text image captions to improve visibility in Google Image results. You can optimize Google My Business listings in the same way by ensuring your listing includes everyday terms used by locals in that area. For example, if locals refer to soft drinks as ‘pop’, then mention it as such.
Step 4. Publish content and evaluate
Once the publish button is hit, it’s time to distribute it. You need to devise a distribution strategy so many eyeballs can see it. Distribution is a team effort, so allocate some time as a team to grow your skills through collaborative learning.
Then, try these distribution tactics:
- Share an e-newsletter to your email marketing lists
- Share on your social media pages like Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, news aggregators and put some cash behind it to boost followers
- Pitch to industry news publications
- Repurpose content across different media (for example, you can turn a podcast episode into a blog entry)
Tips for increased sales
Let’s dive into a couple of tips you can use to turn content marketing into a sales-generating channel for your brand:
1. Place your CTAs carefully
It is easy to get lost and include too many Call-To-Actions (CTAs) when creating your own content. You have all the flexibility and creative freedom in the world to include them however many times you want and wherever you want. But that doesn’t mean it’s going to pay off.
The beauty of content marketing is that you don’t need to plug CTAs all over a piece. The material will do the talking for you without making it plain.
A standard practice is to place a subtle CTA towards the middle or end of a piece of content without sounding or appearing pushy. The CTA should have a connection to the topic to be effective. For example, a personal finance video creator talking about index funds for beginners could include a CTA to check out a net worth tracking tool to help monitor income from index funds.
2. Introduce your offering within your content
A great benefit of having your own content marketing vehicle is that you don’t need to organize extensive launch campaigns to announce new features and services.
A loyal and engaged following will be looking forward to your content to keep up with new announcements.
For example, Google recently launched a blog called Google Search Central, which has now become a primary source for search-related announcements for SEO professionals. All releases about Core updates, API changes, new search products first see the light of day here. No bland press releases for them!
3. Be flexible and respond to feedback
Foraying into a new content marketing channel means being ready for feedback – good, bad, and ugly.
Being responsive to reader feedback helps with improving your output quality. Close to 60% of users will not buy from a brand that creates poorly produced content. If your community is engaging with your content, they’ll try to provide constructive feedback because they’d want to see more from you. Maybe your camera quality needs a boost, or editing needs to be crispier. Let the comments fly in!
Brands to draw inspiration from
There are several brands slaying the content marketing space with engaging and thought-provoking content. A couple of them to take notice of are:
Dollar Shave Club
The Dollar Shave Club comes from when subscription-based eCommerce models were still a novel idea. Their videos broke the internet back in the day and gave the term ‘viral’ some meaning. DSC’s first video has racked up 27M views on YouTube, which they followed up with a series on how to choose a razor, after-shave skincare, and how to get the best out of their products.
Their originality makes them stand out from other brands in the men’s hygiene segment.
It doesn’t lean in on typical elements that a men’s product advert is infamous for. There are no hordes of bikini-clad women scampering for a dude’s attention. Instead, it’s a regular guy who just wants an affordable and effective shaving kit! The clip uses humor to keep you hooked while showing how the product could be a great addition to your bathroom cabinet.
Expedia’s suite of content resources is exhaustive and spans many mediums – blogs, podcasts, videos, etc. The topics in their blog ‘Out There Starts Here’ go as broad as ‘Top x Destinations of 2021’ to very specific like ‘What You Should Do If You Need To Cancel a Trip.’
They have also diversified their blogs into bite-sized episodes on their podcast ‘Out Travel the System.’ The episodes give a more fun take on traveling with guest speakers and topics like ‘The Ultimate Download On Disney Trip Planning.’
Actionable tactics can elevate your content marketing
If there’s one piece of advice to supersede all others, it is that to be successful in content marketing, you need to be consistent and patient. Building a loyal following begs a concerted effort to focus on your audience’s needs and grow using feedback.
Digital space offers several formats to reach new audiences with relatively minor budgets and effort. New formats are also launched every few months, like Twitter Spaces. So, keep testing new formats to take your content marketing strategy to the next level, and eventually, it’s sure to pay off.