Content Marketing as a Strategy
There are always some questions when a new team member comes on board – are they up to speed on your equipment and applications? Do they have experience with industrial sales? Do they “speak engineer” fluently? What’s their sales style? Are they good with computer online sales tools like a CRM?
But sometimes a new colleague is unlike any you’ve worked with before. What if they had the power to attract new prospects you weren’t even aware of, shared exactly the information these visitors wanted to learn, and even developed a following? What if some prospects and customers even preferred getting their information from this new colleague than from the other reps on the team?
As someone who spends hours talking with strangers and customers, trying to convey the right information and facilitate a sale, you might ask, “who is this new person anyway? A superhero? A magician? Mindreader?”
No, it’s Content. And it’s time to build a strong working relationship with it.
Content’s basic operating principle
Ok, content isn’t a person, but it can be helpful to personify this tool for online marketing and sales. Why? Because content’s job is to meet with prospects and customers where they are – online. They search or surf and end up on your site, and content is the rep who’s always on call to greet them. Content is the one who grabs their attention with just the information they were seeking. Content helps them make an informed decision about working with you.
Therefore, it’s critical that this “colleague” is saying accurate, interesting, and helpful things! Content speaks through blogs, case studies, whitepapers, testimonials, video demos, and more. Each must point directly to the needs and interests of each type of online visitor: buyer, engineer, manager, decision-maker, etc.
Can’t you accomplish the same thing by posting sales collateral, brochures, and slide decks online? After all, those brochures and data sheets accompany reps to trade shows, the slides come out at site visits, and whitepapers get emailed all the time. But unless your brochures really narrate a prospect through the buying journey, fill the gaps in their knowledge, and provide context tailored to each audience that sees it, your prospects won’t come away with what they need: the details that show why you are the best choice for their operations.
A content homework helper
The reality is many prospects have done their homework by the time they speak with a sales rep and may only have a few very specific questions by that point. That said, sales reps still have the inside scoop on what prospects ask about most, what they commonly misunderstand, and what keeps customers coming back over time. And this is exactly what marketing and content writers need to know in order to produce content that resonates.
Content needs to use the same terminology and address the same concerns that reps do in one-on-one conversations and formal presentations alike. It’s why sales and marketing must commit to working together.
If you’re a sales rep, odds are you have a wealth of experience and knowledge to share. Make sure those responsible for content are asking these questions (and if they don’t, just tell them!):
- What do prospects always ask about?
- What do they rarely ask but you wish they did?
- Do you have a particular product, technology, or machine that they want to see “inside” or in great detail? Do you have drawings, charts, etc. that you could post online with a blog (so they know what they’re looking at and why it matters)?
- What are some concrete examples of customer successes that you can share to make your point about things like ROI, efficiency, or technology upgrades?
- What markets have you not reached or are you trying to break into? What pitch or application would catch their attention?
- What are common misunderstandings or misconceptions about your product or technology?
- Which value-added services, such as scheduled maintenance and support, make you stand out?
- What can you show visitors about the “how-to,” layout, inner workings, physical or other scientific principles behind your equipment? Can you show a demo of how to integrate what you do into their current setup?
- Who are the people you field questions from? What are their job roles and specific concerns?
If the content is too general it won’t be helpful or interesting to the audience you need to reach. Don’t worry about “giving up” all the best information – chances are they’ll still have some questions that call on your expertise for their unique application.
For example, you could write a comprehensive blog about your pressure gauges and what they’re used for. Or, you could create a series of blogs: one on how the gauges are incorporated into the production line in food and beverage packaging, a second on applications for automotive aftermarket manufacturing, a third on the importance of routine maintenance for the longevity of the product (which saves money), and a fourth on how to perform basic maintenance with step by step pictures (or a link to a video). As a prospect, which content would you rather explore?
Building a working relationship with content
The aim is not to supplant sales but to supplement outreach. The truth is, there’s no way for even the most efficient sales team to identify and reach every possible prospect. But with good content and a strong website, many of them can still find you. They can do this if your company uses good digital marketing such as SEO keyword strategies and by following best practices for HTML coding, site architecture, visual design, and usability.
And remember the point of content is to educate as well as entertain and even persuade as the prospect moves from unfamiliar to informed to decision-maker. So, a topic that might seem too basic or boring to a rep (such as the differences between various polymer additives, or how to select the right bit to use with your self-tapping screws) is probably just as interesting to a prospect as a video tour of your factory’s new automated packaging line. And if they can find the details they’re looking for on your site, you’re one step closer to a satisfied customer.
Good content encourages marketing and sales to work together and can even foster alignment – check out our guide to alignment to see how. If you’re unsure your content hits the mark, or just need help getting started, please get in touch!