Last Friday at MarketingProfs' "Digital Marketing World: Content Marketing" virtual conference, Marcus Sheridan presented a session called "How to Use Content to Revolutionize Your Company's Sales Process." Sheridan, a self-described "pool guy," is founder of The Sales Lion and CEO of River Pools & Spas. His discussion was a primer on how companies can use content marketing to drive sales.
Before Sheridan began offering actionable advice, he shared the circumstances that introduced him to the world of content marketing: After the economic downturn squeezed River Pools & Spas' business in late 2008, the company spotted a big point of inefficiency in its typical sales process. When someone would request a quote, Sheridan would go out and give them one. But during these visits, he would spend 2-3 hours at a dinner table answering basic questions from these potential customers. He realized that his company was waiting until face-to-face meetings to begin the process of teaching, when they should have been starting it much sooner.
This realization compelled River Pools & Spas to start a blog populated with content aimed at answering every question ever heard from customers. Thus began River Pools & Spas' successful foray into the world of content marketing.
"Don't think your business is the exception to the rule," Sheridan told all the virtual attendees before going offering his anecdotal tips.
Below are some of the main points Sheridan made during his discussion:
- Content marketing is about becoming a teacher in your industry who is willing to answer every question ever asked by your customer base. The key is to take the questions you get every day and making them the foundation of your content. Word each question exactly how the consumer would ask it.
- The sales funnel starts with leads who are pushed to becoming prospects before finally becoming customers. The goal of content marketing is to get a potential customer into the sales funnel and push them through to the end.
- The four content pillars of consumer thought are: 1) price/cost, 2) problems, 3) comparisons and 4) reviews. Companies willing to be transparent about these topics will be rewarded by search engines and consumers looking for answers to their basic questions. If, for instance, a company is willing to openly discuss pricing when competitors aren't, consumers will take note. In other words, "Don't be an ostrich."
- Find your tipping point. Your tipping point will be some kind of "magic number." For River Pools & Spas it was 30: Sheridan found that if a visitor to his company's site read at least 30 unique pages of content on their website, they would turn into a customer 80 percent of the time (the industry's closing rate if 10-15 percent). "Once you know your 'tip,' everything in your marketing campaign revolves around that number. Everything."
- Assignment selling has been a key tool for River Pools & Spas. In their introductory follow-up email to leads, they include an e-book, local references and videos offering a peak at what it would be like to have a pool installed -- all before the initial in-person meeting. This lets the potential customer know that when Sheridan visits them, he's not there to teach but to earn their business (i.e., sell them). This also serves to help the potential customer know early on whether or not River Pools & Spas' products are right for them. "When you're honest, you disarm the potential client and they'll trust you much, much more," Sheridan said.
At the end of his session, Sheridan explained the essence of content marketing: "The idea is when you meet with them, they're not at the top of the sales funnel, but near the bottom so when you visit them you can pop them out."
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