Most marketers now ‘get’ that you have to earn the right to tell your story by investing in and sharing content. Pretty much all major brands have recognised that there is no room for cynical marketers to be churning out propaganda about how brilliant their firm or business is. The great news is that content marketing works (actually it’s Valuable Content Marketing that works) – it really does drive traffic to web sites, blogs and generates followers on social media channels. It gets visitors to sign up to download white papers, e-books and to receive newsletters.
Sadly some firms have spotted the benefits of valuable content marketing but have lost none of their cynicism. They have missed that you can’t mix old thinking with new methods and seem to have a voracious appetite for list building and pushing prospects down the sales funnel. I wonder if any marketer would suggest having that message on their web site? – ‘we want you in our database so we can push you down the sales funnel’. It’s like those cynical words I’ve heard some professionals use when they want to cross sell services: ‘we want a bigger share of the client’s wallet’.
So how should we approach this new form of marketing?
The danger of mixing new marketing with old style selling
Sonja Jefferson’s recent Twitter exchange proved that deep down many marketers believe there is no such thing as a free lunch; that the whole purpose of providing valuable content is to generate leads for fee earners or salespeople to follow up.
With this mindset the valuable content message seems to get lost somewhere around the time an enquiry is made or a name gets added to a database. Suddenly that highly targeted customer focused and valuable content that appeared on a website changes to selling messages delivered by email or worse by phone.
Trying to mix the new marketing approach with the old selling mindset results in just another version of cold calling and mass marketing and buyers of products and services are bored with that approach.
Potential clients are less forgiving than they used to be; they spot the change in tone and approach. What had been a comfortable experience about finding useful and interesting material has suddenly hurled them into the sales machine. Their heart sinks as they suddenly feel manipulated into a position where they have become the target for cold calls and a barrage of irrelevant newsletters or offers. They then use their social media network as a form of vigilante consumerism to spread the word about lack of authenticity – and the impact on a brand can be disastrous (as Nokia found out to their huge cost when customers felt misled by new product advertising).
It all starts with the right intentions
In his foreword for Principled Selling, Charles H Green, author of The Trusted Advisor wrote:
“Principled Selling is based on an elegantly simple idea: sellers should adapt to what the buyer is interested in buying – in the buyer’s terms, from the buyer’s perspective, and in the buyer’s timeframe. Call that “respect for the buyer,” if you will. Respect for the buyer means the seller adheres to certain principles – simple ones like don’t promise what you can’t deliver, act with integrity, be transparent and authentic, and above all – have good intentions.”
I could not have put it better myself!
Cynical marketing or old style selling just doesn’t cut it anymore – respect for the buyer, having good intentions has to be at the heart of your marketing AND sales activity. Take the right intention and add valuable content and you have a powerful cocktail that will build trusted relationships. Maintain that intent and stay congruent throughout the whole business development process (with new and existing clients) and you will sustain long term revenue growth.
How should we follow up our valuable content efforts? Here are a few tips from me.
Gating content to collect contact details
Only ask for sign up to receive content if it is of the most valuable type. Professionally written e-books, research and white papers that are genuinely designed to be useful are about the only items you might ask someone to leave their details for. When you do ask for contact details, be transparent and up front about what you intend to do with them. If you intend to follow up with a phone call say so BEFORE asking the visitor to submit their details – if you feel that, by being up about being up front about a phone follow up, visitors would not leave their details – then don’t ask them to!
For those who do leave details then you need some way of segmenting enquiries based on the profile of your ideal clients.
Who are your dream clients?
Let’s be clear, get valuable content marketing right and your dream clients will beat a path to your door, sometimes in enough numbers to keep you as busy with profitable work as you need to be. In the process of attracting future dream clients you will also attract visitors who do not match the right profile – they may never become clients but they can certainly become advocates and even introducers of dream clients.
You do need to know what a dream client looks like of course and have a profile of customer that is the ‘right’ type of client. If you are not sure then you can use the free interactive tools and recourses at the Principled Selling Resources Site to help you identify who you should be following up.
Defining the ideal client profile is an exercise that demands cooperation between sales and marketing teams in order to avoid the old marketing / sales / fee earner arguments – take a look at Sharon Tanton’s recent humorous animation with a serious message – to see what I mean.
Never make a cold call
Never ever make a cold call. It is the ultimate in interruption marketing, lacks congruency with marketing based on valuable content and carries a high risk of killing a trusted relationship with your brand.
If you were transparent and up front about making a call and a visitor to your site accepted your terms, then it’s not a cold call. Your call is expected.
If you have not been clear about your intentions then don’t call – if an enquiry is passed to you to follow up, continue the valuable content and principled selling philosophy. If the enquiry is from someone matching the profile of your ideal clients then:
- Research the individual / company
- Connect with them on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook (as appropriate)
- Email a copy of your latest newsletter if it is relevant (and full of valuable content)
- Email or write to them to explain that you would like to speak with them or arrange a meeting – along with this communication include a piece of valuable content (even basic research will suggest what it is right to send) Include in this communication when you intend to call i.e. week commencing ………
- If you don’t get to speak with the contact first time – drip feed more valuable content to them (remember that you have decided that they are potentially a dream client)
- Do not bombard them with product or service offers
Not a dream client?
If the enquiry does not match your ideal profile of client, do not plug them into a system that simply churns out generic marketing material – use social media to stay connected, it is probably how they found you in the first place and you never know who they might introduce you to.
Valuable content marketing needs principled sellers
The days of cynical marketing and old style selling are dead. Have respect for your buyers, market the valuable way, follow up with principled selling and you’ll build the trusted relationships you seek. Sustainable sales growth only comes if you stay congruent throughout the whole business development process.
You will find lots of free tools and resources that will help you to find, win keep and grow business at www.principledgroup.com/resources – do check them out.
If you enjoyed this post, you might also like these:
- Should sales follow up content marketing?
- Sales growth in a nutshell – find it, win it, keep it, grow it
- Selling ethically, with integrity and a conscience
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