The importance of inbound marketing — in particular, content-based marketing and brand journalism — is ever more apparent today, when customers take a more proactive approach to doing their due diligence before a purchase.
The sales process today starts long before the first interaction. It starts before the seller even knows the client exists. The shift to the cloud has dramatically changed how companies approach marketing. Consumers are doing their own research, looking at comparison sites, reading articles, white papers and blogs, and are less interested in having a sales meeting serve as their primary introduction to a product.
As a result, the sales process and the marketing process overlap more than ever, and that initial inbound marketing now means ensuring that those prospective clients have at their disposal a wealth of high-quality information. It means ensuring that your company’s CEO is producing articles and publishing them under his byline on industry magazines. It means making sure your company is mentioned, and your executives quoted, in unbiased journalistic features, and it means on-site, producing in-depth sales collateral that transcends the simple sales pitches, ads and slogans to offer real, solution-oriented content.
“Quality content is critical in today’s world,” said Michael Smith, Senior Managing Director at Blue Ridge Partners. “Most buyers have done research long before they ended up calling a sales rep about a software product, or any other product. And the way you influence that is by having a product that works really well, and by using great content, and having someone curating that content is critical.”
Smith tells of speaking with the owner of a cloud-based service firm doing $15 million a year in business on the subject of the future of the sales function. “He said, ‘If I were starting a new business today, the first thing I would do is hire my content leaders, and people who are going to do nothing but work with the product side and understand the market, to develop meaningful and impactful content that tells our story to the public. The second thing I’m going to do is hire people who know how to take that content, make sure it’s modified in the appropriate way, and distributed across all available channels in the marketplace. The third thing is to understand who our target market is, and where they’re going, and then follow them to build up a repository of knowledge about the potential buyer we want to go after.'”
Today’s sales process, buoyed by cloud and virtual interactions, is more indirect than ever, and less dependent on gregarious salespersons and cold calls. Sales interactions now begin with a far more educated prospect who has learned about the product or service ahead of time — and a successful sales call is dependent on establishing a firm body of thought leadership (and not sales fluff) designed to educate those prospects, not only about the products themselves, but about the industry, the broader solution, and the problems and challenges they may solve.