Content, content, content!! It seems 90% of all B2B lead generation or marketing articles are focused on content marketing. How to do it and how to make it effective, but in essence, most say the same thing. Create high quality, relevant content that is of value to your target audience. Obviously you need to know that target audience and understand its challenges, desires and frustrations.
Content marketing often strives to distance itself from telesales as though the latter is a poor relation. The embarrassing, uncool uncle nobody wants to invite to the party.
But actually, what is your content marketing strategy trying to achieve? Is it to position your agency as a thought leader or is it to generate good quality leads? Can it do both?
Eric Wittlake published an interesting article for the Content Marketing Institute demonstrating why a content marketing plan can’t generate both leads and demand. As he states, the two are at odds with each other. Wittlake talks about content marketing plans that should treat lead generation and demand generation separately, but really, any lead generation approach through content marketing needs to be combined with a sound telemarketing strategy and approach.
A recent report, downloadable from B2B marketing in conjunction with The Telemarketing Company highlights that 76% of revenue is still generated through non-digital means and hence 50% of respondents viewed telemarketing as “critical” or “quite important”, so it is clear that the traditional techniques have a big role still in prospect and customer engagement and must, even after all these years, be doing something fundamentally right.
That is not to take away from content marketing. It is clearly an important and growing channel and a report from SocialMediaB2B highlights that:
- 86% of B2B marketers are using content marketing
- 55% of B2B marketers plan to increase their content marketing spending over the next 12 months
- 81% of B2B marketers use content marketing for engagement
- 83% of B2B marketers use content marketing for lead generation
- 54% of B2B marketers see producing engaging content as their biggest content marketing challenge
- Only 35% of B2B marketers have a documented content marketing strategy
- Only 38% of B2B marketers rate their content marketing as effective
Content marketing and telemarketing should be working hand in hand, but certainly the former could learn a lot from the latter as to how best to engage with a prospect. Telemarketing may be seen as old fashioned, but it has worked for decades and continues to do so. Rather than try and dismiss it is an archaic, intrusive approach that prospects don’t respond to, content marketing could learn a lot from the core principles of engagement through cold calling.
Targeting & proposition
This is the foundation of successful telemarketing and I don’t just mean “pick a group of people who should be interested”, or select a standard market sector approach.
If you are speaking to the wrong people, you might create an element of engagement, but you will never make a sale. To do this well, you need to understand your own proposition and be able to potentially break this up into individual parts that will appeal to certain audiences. Look at where you can quantify success and what is current and of interest within the market.
To identify and create the correct messages for each group it can be useful to create a profile for each target job title function and actually, through calls identify key challenges in their professional life or things that keep them awake at night.
Segmentation within content marketing is important, but actually not that easy. What part of your proposition will be important for the prospect? However, if you understand trends in the market and you are able to identify USPs and segment your own proposition, and you have good data, you should be able to focus accurately. You also have the benefit that you can see who is viewing your content with analytics.
This is an area where telemarketing should be driving content. You have the luxury with telemarketing to ascertain interests and trends directly from prospects and that can drive your content.
In the cold calling environment, you have circa10 seconds to grab attention and say something that will entice someone to stop what they are doing to listen to you and what you have to say.
You are battling against internal distractions, numerous other approaches from similar or other agencies, so it is worth spending time and effort to get that opening statement absolutely spot on.
The same is true of content marketing. The amount of content delivered to any professional these days is vast. If you consumed all of it, you would get nothing done, so it has to be selective. Hence, you need a very punchy title, opening statement and content summary to even get someone to read/watch it. It has to be written in a style and tone that will maintain engagement, and encourage advocacy and in that sense is very similar to new business prospecting via the telephone
Make it about the prospect and not you
For any cold caller, the key is to introduce yourself and your agency quickly, succinctly and clearly, but beyond that, you must get the prospect talking about themselves and their requirements. For a cold caller, if you keep talking without letting the prospect get a word in edgeways, you will sound like a cold caller and any engagement is lost very quickly. The secret is to establish an intelligent conversation. The same can be said of content marketing. An article that is almost an advertorial is unlikely to get traction or interest. It might if you hit someone at the exact time they are looking for precisely your services, but that is 1000/1 and it certainly won’t start a relationship with anyone who might require your services in the future.
The prospect cares about themselves and their business, so understand what that is or what it may be and focus any content on that. It has to be said that this is so much easier by phone as you have their responses to react to directly, but through smart analytics, you can segment and focus your content strategy.
Keep in touch, but don’t hassle
It is such a fine line with telemarketing as to how often to keep in touch or chase a prospect to generate that lead or meeting. Certainly with the phone, whilst it is one of the most effective ways of engaging directly with a prospect, it is never going to receive a high score as a desired approach from prospects. It is an interruption and you have to be empathetic to that.
Content is slightly different as you can choose to consume that when you want to, but no doubt there can be such a thing as too much content. A constant bombardment of articles, videos, emails, particularly if not targeted and focused on that prospect could do more harm than good.
Delivering too much content, too frequently and without relevance and quality may do damage. You may be better off producing one key, outstanding piece of content on a less frequent basis that tackles a specific prospect issue.
Don’t be afraid to have a call to action
Even salespeople who are able to engage a prospect in an intelligent conversation and identify needs, and opportunities can fail. Often this failure is a fear to create an action. In our case this is the generation of a meeting. You have to ask for it! Granted, this has to be at the right point in a conversation, but you do have to ask.
I believe the same should be the case of content marketing. Yes, a lot of content is designed to create engagement and build a relationship, but at some point you need to give the prospect a nudge. In most cases, a prospect will already have a supplier for your offer, and that is almost certainly the case for marketing agencies. Hence, request details to download the content or at least make your contact details easy to find and act on.
There is so much technology available these days that you could include a data collection pop up on, for example, the third time someone has clicked a link, or if you have spent a significant amount of time producing content, absolutely make its availability dependent on data provision.
Whatever marketing you do, you need to give the prospect a push in the right direction.
So in essence, there is no getting away from the phenomenon of content marketing. But there are always lessons to be learned from history and new is not always better. Telemarketing has always, will always and should always be a key element in B2B sales and marketing, but content marketing is important and will continue to grow in importance. Content and telephone marketing can deliver exceptional results if deployed well, but more importantly, deployed well in partnership. Both require significant investment in terms of time, effort and money, but can help you drive your business forwards.