How should sales treat B2B content marketing leads? [free templates]

September 2, 2016Content marketing

THE ART OF CONVERTING B2B CONTENT MARKETING LEADS

Okay, they’ve downloaded your ebook. They’re clicking on every email you send. And they’re returning to your blog articles again and again. What now? If you’re struggling to confidently approach your content leads and convert them into sales, this article is for you. With three email templates to help you get on your way, we’re about to teach you how to turn your content fans into dedicated customers.

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  • Content marketing leads are usually in the introduction or consideration phase of the sales funnel. So, they’re essentially cold leads but they still need to be handled skilfully.
  • Content marketing leads should be followed up in a timely (but not pushy) manner.
  • With prospects at the top, and even middle, of the sales funnel, the focus is on providing relevant content. It’s only around the bottom of the funnel that salespeople should attempt to close. And the hard-sales approach of old won’t make the cut. Your customer is more in control than ever before. If you’re looking to close a sale, you’ll need to prove your worth as a thought leader with a great reputation and a history of delivering results.

THE LEADS ARE WEAK? YOU’RE WEAK!

Arguably the most well-known movie scene about converting leads to sales is Alec Baldwin’s“Always Be Closing” monologue in Glengarry Glen Ross. A 1983 David Mamet play that was adapted into the 1992 film, the story revolves around four desperate real estate salesmen. They use, shall we say, unsophisticated telephone sales techniques to try to convert low-quality leads in a pre-internet world.

From a 2016 perspective, it’s an approach that looks not just dated but counterproductive. For a decade, smart operators have been using online content to allow prospects to dive into the top of the sales funnel of their own free will, rather than chasing after them with outbound, interruption marketing. The end result is what the aforementioned real estate salesmen were constantly scheming to get their hands on: warm leads.

THE MAGIC OF CONTENT MARKETING LEADS

The uniqueness of content marketing leads has little to do with contemporary technology. After all, content marketing predates the digital era. Instead, content’s staying power and hyper-growth has to do with its ability to deliver quality leads. In fact, content marketing costs 62 per cent less than traditional marketing, yet generates about three times as many leads.

Not only are there more leads, the process of nurturing and engaging with your audience through blogs, webinars and in-person events means those leads tend to be better, more qualified leads.

At the risk of stating the obvious, anyone who takes the time to consume content about a product, brand or company is by definition demonstrating an encouraging level of engagement. Content strategy is about narrowcasting. It reaches a far smaller number of people than, for example, a prime-time television ad. However, it connects with much more tightly targeted demographics – demographics that are probably in the market for what’s being sold.

To put it in more concrete terms, someone who has searched for, downloaded and read an ebook on ‘The safest four-wheel drives sold in Australia’ is much more likely to be close to making a purchasing decision than someone who absent-mindedly clicked on a banner ad for a 4WD dealership, walked pass a bus advertisement or clicked on a mass email blast.

HOW TO HANDLE CONTENT MARKETING LEADS

So you’re a salesperson at Big Data Analysis Company and the marketing automation software has alerted you to a Jane Smith. Jane has just downloaded an ebook about the impact open source data will have on the Australian business landscape. To keep the abandonment rate low, all Jane had to do to access the ebook was leave her name and email.

What now?

THE PRE-WORK: LEAD SCORING

Most people begin their content marketing journey concerned with one thing – getting leads through the funnel. But not all leads are created equal. If you’re getting multiple leads, you need to know who’s worth pursuing. This is where lead scoring comes in.

Lead scoring lets you ascribe a value to each lead based on the data you have on them. You should be collecting two kinds of data to inform your lead-scoring algorithm: demographic information and lead intelligence. The first is gathered through your forms: sector, position in company, company size. The second is the behavioural data you collect through pixel tracking, click-throughs and other website engagements.

Once this collection process is set up, it should alert you to which leads are worth passing over to your sales team.

Your lead-scoring algorithm can be as simple or complex as you like. What’s crucial is that you’re programming in high indicators of interest (for example, visiting multiple product pages, case studies or pricing pages). If you’re just starting out, don’t overcook it – your lead scoring can always be finessed and expanded upon as you learn more about what actions indicate interest.

STEP ONE: THE FIRST HELLO

Don’t wait too long to follow up. A study from InsideSales.com found that salespeople who followed up web leads within five minutes were nine times more likely to convert them.

Ensure you have automated email delivered on download. Keep it short and simple – ‘Thanks for downloading our ebook. Here are some other articles you might enjoy’ – is enough. Just make sure the email is signed off by a person; it should use the salesperson’s name.

STEP TWO: A WEEK LATER

Roughly a week has passed and you can see your ebook lead has read their email several times and clicked on both links. They also clicked on some product pages and a case study. This shows they’re interested. So it’s time to make contact again.

Manually send an email thanking Jane for her interest, and linking to another piece of content she’ll find useful. Using our example, it might be an ebook called Data is beautiful – 7 simple steps to data storytelling. Something she can put into practice is great.

Your email should be personal and relaxed. It could be along the lines of:

‘Hi Jane.
Thanks for your interest in open source data.
Many folks interested in the possibilities of sharing data have found this ebook useful, so here’s a link for you to download it for free.
Give us a shout if you need anything.

Jenny Salesperson’

STEP THREE [FREE TEMPLATES]: MANUALLY REACH OUT TO HIGHLY-ENGAGED LEADS

If things are going well, your lead scoring should now be flagging Jane as highly engaged. Let’s say that at this point she’s downloaded two ebooks, visited upwards of 10 high-interest pages (and on multiple occasions), and is spending more time on pricing and solutions pages.

Marketo advises it takes six to eight touchpoints to generate a viable sales lead. I’d suggest it can be even higher. Your sales team needs to be prepared for this extended lead time and not get tempted to jump in too fast.

To do this effectively, your content and sales team need to work harmoniously to develop a strategy for long lead times and various points in the buyer’s funnel. Ensure your sales team are taking it slow and investing their time wisely, using the data at their disposal to help valuate who’s getting ready to have a chat or make a purchase, and who’s starting to lose interest.

Step three shouldn’t suddenly turn ‘salesy’, but it should include a solid call-to-action and provide your lead with some actionable advice.

To help you get started, here are three email templates your sales team can start using today.

TOP-OF-THE-FUNNEL EMAIL TEMPLATE

This is your chance to break the ice in a low-key way, offer more valuable content and unobtrusively introduce your business and its value proposition.

Hi [customer.firstname],
Thanks for downloading our [insert content piece].

People who have downloaded our ebook in the past found the following articles useful for [add business/reader objective here, such as using data to inform your organisational strategy]. Here are the articles:
[Enter article here]
[Enter article here]

If there’s anything I can help you with, reach out at any time.

Best,
[Salesperson’s name and contact details/email signature]

Why it works:

  • Makes a personal introduction between the lead and sales rep.
  • There’s no pressure for the lead to buy.
  • The content makes a logical progression. For instance, if I had just read an ebook on open source data, I would want to start exploring some practical applications for data. If you gave me a data visualisation playbook or a business case presentation template filled with all the key research I’d need to make a case for greater data use in my business, I’d be pretty happy.
  • People are social – if someone likes something we want to know why.
  • You’ve provided a couple of options for the lead to click on. Make sure they’re different enough that you can garner some insight into where the lead’s mind is at.

MIDDLE-OF-THE-FUNNEL EMAIL TEMPLATE

Jane’s now at the evaluation stage. She’s aware of you, but you’ve still got to prove to her that you’ll help solve her problems. Most importantly, you need to convince her that you’re not going to start spamming her with calls at work or LinkedIn requests. This is a time to build your lead’s confidence in your abilities.

Hi again [customer.firstname],

How did you find the [insert name of content you sent them]?
I did some research on [name of Jane’s company]. When I’m talking to people from your sector about [enter your subject area] there’s often a lot of questions about:
[Insert the kinds of questions/challenges raised by clients in your lead’s sector]

They aren’t challenges you can just overcome in a day, but these articles deliver some valuable insights:
[Feature article addressing challenge]
[Case study about overcoming challenge]
[Third-party think piece]

Best,
[Salesperson’s name and contact details/email signature]

Why it works:

  • You’re getting even more personal.
  • You’re identifying the sector and your experience working in it.
  • You’re providing a case study, proving your ability to help people like your lead.
  • You’re not going too fast and scaring them off.

Bottom-of-the-funnel email template

It’s finally call-to-action time. Your lead has been on a content marketing drip, so analyse what they’ve been reading, watching and clicking on to strategically deploy your next move.

Hi again [customer.firstname],

I’ve noticed you’ve been reading about [enter themes based on content touchpoints].
We’ve worked with [client’s names] to deliver [enter successes].
I’ve had a few ideas about how we can help you. One suggestion is [enter something you can do – product, service that provides a solution].

I’m free [enter calendar dates and times]. If you want to talk about it, let me know and I’ll send you a calendar invite.

Best,
[Salesperson’s name and contact details/email signature]

Why it works:

  • More social proof.
  • You’ve provided your lead with a solution.
  • If that solution has piqued their interest, you’ve opened up the table to have a chat.

PERSONALISE THE CONTENT MARKETING LEAD FOR OPTIMAL RESULTS

The content marketing lead provides your sales team with an incredible amount of data. Use it.

Allow the relationship with your contact marketing audience to be informed by the data you have about them. From engagement levels to the content they’re clicking on, flesh out your understanding of who they are, what they’re looking for and whether they’re close to making a decision.

When it comes to B2B leads, this information and personalisation is invaluable. The process from consideration to contract can be long. It often requires a lot of gentle effort and support from your sales team, as even your lead may face continual pushback from other internal stakeholders. Your content lead isn’t just looking to buy; they’re looking for a real solution. From your very first email onwards, it’s your job to elucidate and provide – bringing your lead ever so close to overcoming their challenge.

TAKING THE MYSTERY OUT OF CONVERTING CONTENT MARKETING LEADS

To summarise, keep the following in mind when trying to convert content marketing leads:

  • A prospect’s primary concern is efficiently accessing relevant, useful content. Only after a business has provided it can they start trying to close the sale.
  • A prospect will be at the awareness, consideration or conversion-ready stage of the customer journey. The emails they’re sent should reflect where they are.
  • Don’t wait too long to make contact, but take the road to sales slowly. Use data to inform your decisions and to generate a picture of who your lead is and what they’re responding to. When your lead scoring is telling you that they’re ready to convert (and remember, this could be after as many as a dozen touchpoints) then it’s time to ease them into a casual chat, a strategy session or a product preview.

Want to learn lots more about how content marketing helps lead generation and sales?
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