I love to take things apart. I find it fascinating to understand how things work and I know that I really understand something when I can put it back together and it still does what it was intended to do (I didn’t break it!). So when my agency dedicated itself to creating marketing that people love and being really good at content marketing, I set about taking content marketing apart to see what makes it tick. I wanted to learn the secrets of great content that converted casual prospects into sales qualified leads. And I learned something. The term content marketing – which I claim is widely misused - only partially describes what makes content marketing work and how you should be using content to create marketing that people love.
At my agency, Innovative Marketing Resources, we get the opportunity to speak to both a lot of other inbound marketing agencies and a lot of marketers who are all trying to create marketing that people love… which is to say, marketing that generates the greatest number of sales qualified leads. So of course most of these marketers are talking about content marketing. Unfortunately most also share experiences like “I blog 3 times a week and I’m not getting any more leads” or “My premium content at the bottom of my funnel isn’t converting qualified sales opportunities” or (one of my favorites) “My social media content isn’t attracting any leads”. So does content marketing really work? Does great content really make great content marketing? Or is content marketing just another fluff-er-nutter fad? And if it does work, why aren’t more people, even professional marketing agencies, successful with it?
Why Great Content Isn't Enough To Generate Qualified Leads
The marketers I speak to are creating content - and some of it is really, really good. By that I mean content that is:
- Well organized and documented with links
- Deals with an engaging topic
- Speaks to a specific reader profile
- Is well optimized for SEO
- Isn't salesy. Is educational.
But they’re not getting results. That’s because great content is only part of the story for successful content marketing. Here’s what’s missing… a sales process. What? We’re talking about content marketing, not sales, right? Sales process is the term missing from the name content marketing. Without it, your great content isn’t going to help you consistently generate sales qualified leads. But since our agency is usually talking to marketers, we often refer to the sales process in content marketing as a marketing machine.
Content marketing based solely on content isn’t going to do jack for your business. Simply creating a lot of great content and expecting it to attract prospects and convert them into sales qualified leads on your website is like pouring gasoline on four tires and a pile of engine parts and expecting them to take you to Boston. You can keep pouring gasoline on that pile of parts but it’s not going anywhere unless that pile of parts is assembled into a car. Gasoline is to a car what content is to content marketing. Content is the fuel that makes your marketing machine go… but you have to build your marketing machine, otherwise simply stockpiling fuel by writing more content isn’t going to do you any good.
Build A Marketing Machine. Then Fill It With Great Content.
So what does your marketing machine look like? How do you build one? You’re going to have to learn about your sales process, which means talking to sales, in order to do it right. Incredibly, many businesses don’t know what their sales process is. They sell by feel, sense of smell or some other intangible. If you’re selling by these methods, content marketing isn’t going to help you no matter how hard you try. You have to understand the process by which your business helps people solve problems in a way that causes a prospect to become a customer by paying for what you do.
Here are some questions that I use to prompt thinking that helps my customers talk to sales about the sales process and build marketing machines for their businesses:
- Who – who am I selling to?
- Why – why are my ideal customers motivated to look for information?
- What – what answers are my ideal customers looking for?
- How – how does my business uniquely solve my ideal customer’s problem?
- Objections – what objections will my prospect raise and what answers overcome these objections?
Once you have a sense of what your sales process looks like, you can use a platform like HubSpot to implement a marketing machine. When you implement your sales process on a platform like HubSpot, you’ll be creating a flow of educating content that your prospects can participate in. This flow is created with things like calls-to-action, forms, landing pages, nurturing emails, list segmentations and workflows. A platform like HubSpot is cool because it’s both a collection of all the tools required for building a marketing machine and also integrated diagnostics that enable you to tune your machine to create marketing that people love. Elegant and Simple (I love things that are elegant and simple... a holdover from my engineering days). You can imagine a prospect finding you (because you have great content and have done excellent SEO), learning about what you do, deciding you know what you’re talking about, choosing to learn more about your brand of solution, overcoming objections to purchasing your brand and finally signaling readiness for a sales call to close the deal. This process is the “car” that you’re ready to fill with fuel – great content – to create marketing that people love.
Marketing Machine + Great Content = Marketing People Love
This is what I learned after I took content marketing apart and put it back together again. Great content on its own does not make great content marketing. If someone comes to you saying they are doing content marketing, ask them about their sales process. If they can’t tell you why people are looking for them online and how they solve prospect’s problems better than anyone else, or how they address objections to their brand, you can be pretty certain that they’re not doing content marketing and they’re not creating marketing people love – even if they’re blogging 5 times a week… and they are not consistently generating sales qualified leads, guaranteed.
A Content Marketer's Blueprint Creates Marketing People Love
When Innovative Marketing Resources works with clients to help them create marketing people love, we use a technique for creating a marketing machine and the content-fuel to power it, called the Content Marketer’s Blueprint™. It’s a client-specific plan to create a marketing machine that reflects the client’s sales process, the content to fuel that process plus the analytics to ensure the machine is running at peak performance. We create Content Marketer’s Blueprints for our prospects, at no cost, before we propose any services or quote any prices. Yes, it’s radical, but we find that prospects who really want to create marketing that people love make the best customers. We think this is so powerful and game-changing that we've even started teaching other inbound agencies how to sell services and manage clients using the Content Marketer's Blueprint.
Before you start thinking this is cold fusion or something really cool for nothing, the process of creating a Content Marketer’s Blueprint does require a prospect to
- Talk with one of our inbound marketing consultants for about an hour and
- Engage with their own sales team and report back.
Some people just aren’t that interested in creating marketing people love. Are you? If you have other ways to create marketing people love, what are they? Does your content marketing program include your sales process? If you’d like to learn more about the Content Marketer’s Blueprint, you can view a short video clip here.