How to Integrate Content Into Your Sales Process

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Sales Management : 9 min read

How to Integrate Content Into Your Sales Process

Content may be king, but it’s underused in sales.

Only about 20% of sales teams use content to engage leads. Gone are the days where marketers and sales reps do their own thing and hope for the best. That disconnect means lost sales and missed opportunities. Marketing might be targeting the wrong leads. Sales reps may be missing insights buried in Marketing’s persona research.

When Marketing and Sales work together, brands better understand what customers need and want.

Ideally, this should work as a constant feedback loop. Marketing watches for comments and interactions with content, while Sales reviews prospect behavior and lead sources.

The CMO Council found that working content into a sales strategy pays off in spades. Respondents reported higher conversion rates, more engagement, and increased retention.

The question is, where do you begin?

Here are a few areas to look at when combining content and sales strategies.

Set goals and KPIs.

Any good strategy depends on a strong foundation. First, Sales and Marketing need to define what they want to accomplish with their content.

Before you start creating a bunch of blog posts and ebooks, it’s important to establish goals and tie them to KPIs that signal success or… not.

Typical goals include:

  • Generate more leads
  • Attract more qualified leads
  • Increase average spend per customer
  • Drive traffic
  • Build brand awareness
  • Improve conversion rate
  • Increase retention

KPIs, or key performance indicators, are the measurable values that show whether you’re on track to achieve those goals.

So, if your goal is to increase conversions, then KPIs might include average time to close or lead-to-customer conversion rate for each piece of content.

For increasing retention rates, KPIs might include churn, upsell revenue, and percentage of repeat customers.

Remember, content should serve a purpose for both the business and the audience. As such, it needs to inspire visitors to take action in a way that aligns with your business objectives.

Match content to every phase in the sales cycle.

According to Forrester researchers, 74% of B2B buyers conduct more than half of their research online before making a purchase.

This means the customer—not the sales rep—is in control of how they move through the buyer’s journey or sales funnel. Because the customer is on their own for the bulk of the process, content must address each phase in the funnel.

sales funnel

As you start matching content type to stage, the results might look something like this:

  • Attract: Educational content like white papers, ebooks, how-to content, blog posts that answers a question.
  • Convert: Case studies, content focused on higher level questions, data sheets, webinars.
  • Close: Live demo, consultation, estimate, free trial. At the purchase stage, content comes with a more direct push toward purchasing.
  • Delight: Newsletters, special offers, content that highlights new products/features. Ultimately, delight or retention is all about making sure customers feel valued and keep coming back for more.

Additional mapping best practices:

  • Match content to buyer personas throughout the journey.
  • Don’t overwhelm consumers with too much information. It should be easy for visitors to gather information that allows them to progress in the journey.
  • Emphasize education over the hard sell. When you provide something of value, customers are more likely to trust your company.

In this next section, we’ll provide more information about tailoring content to each part of the funnel.

1. Lead generation (attract)

The lead generation stage is all about generating interest. Here, the goal is to attract people that are searching for specific topics—and getting them interested enough to give you their email.

And one of the most effective ways to get leads to your site? SEO.

Marketing and Sales must combine data. Sales reps know which questions people ask and what language they use to describe their pain points.

Marketing can then use that information to inform their keyword research and create content around their findings.

That content can include anything from blog posts to videos to infographics. The main thing to consider is how you talk to the audience. In the awareness phase, people seek answers to broad questions—they’re trying to gather information.

Don’t go for the hard sell. Instead, focus on being helpful. Once prospects make it to your website, you’ll need a way to collect info for future marketing efforts.

Two of the most common ways to do this are:

Newsletter subscription

Capture emails with an email opt-in form. Messaging should fall along the lines of: “stay in touch” or “sign up for the latest news.” The CTA should be in a visible area and presented on every page. Here’s an example of what this might look like.

newsletter email example

Gated content

Gated content requires users to share some information in exchange for access to a resource.

Typical B2B content might ask for a name, email, and some general information about their business. This information allows sales reps to pre-qualify leads—so they can prioritize those prospects most likely to turn into a customer.

A few examples of gated content are:

  • Whitepapers
  • Case studies
  • Webinars
  • Ebooks

Gated content is typically more in-depth than your average blog post. Often, a business will present data, research, or a detailed guide covering a related topic.

Appboy presents a good example of gated content in action. They lay out what you’ll get in exchange for your information and they don’t ask prospects for too many personal details.

appboy gated content example

2. Lead nurturing (convert)

In the consideration phase, the challenge is convincing the audience that your brand solves their problem.

Content should educate and inform.

Here, there are two areas sales and marketing should focus on. One is building your asset library—the resources customers can find on your site. Two is responding to objections.

A few examples of lead nurturing content:

On-site content

Blog posts might offer tips the customer can use to fix a problem themselves.

For example, if your company specializes in user experience—you might write a series of articles that show customers how to improve their site’s UX.

It sounds like you’re giving away your service, but these types of posts are useful in helping you prove that you know your stuff. It's an indirect way to show the prospect that a full UX strategy is more than they can do on their own.

In other cases, short videos that look at features or how-tos that show off your product are especially effective.

And finally, case studies and data sheets add another layer of social proof. Additionally, you'll want to organize your assets so that visitors can browse through every resource.

Overcoming objections

Sales reps hear their fair share of “nos.” But, the initial objection doesn’t mean game over.

Content gives reps a way to gently nudge prospects back on track—without an invasive follow-up call.

Where content can help you out:

Blog posts

A blog post is a less direct approach to continuing a conversation.

Build authority by addressing concerns like budget or complicated features. This is an area where looking back at sales calls and notes can help you pinpoint these concerns and present a solution.

Get the word out by including a link in an email newsletter or in your social media posts. Because the goal is addressing objections, it’s better to avoid using gated content in this case.

Email

Personalized emails that follow up after the initial objection can be especially effective.

If someone says, “we don’t really need your product or service,” present them with some statistics or a case study that shows X percentage of companies say product/service delivered positive ROI.

Or, consider referencing a blog or social media post that highlights an area of interest.

For example:

"Just saw your recent piece on using Facebook for lead generation. How are you tracking your ROI—and is this something you’d be interested in learning more about?"

From there, you can suggest a short call to talk about how your software can help the prospect reach their goals.

3. Close

At this point in the journey, the prospect has decided to use a solution. But, they haven’t quite decided if they’re going with you or a competitor.

This is where you’ll make that direct pitch. The one that pushes them toward finally pulling the trigger.

This type of content is more straightforward than the earlier phases. But, it requires Marketing and Sales to work collaboratively.

Sales needs to provide Marketing with information about common objections. For example, what questions or hesitations are reps running into right before they close?

Types of content used here may include the following:

  • Charts comparing your product to competitors
  • A look at the sales and onboarding process
  • Reviews
  • Clear product descriptions
  • Testimonials
  • Case studies
  • Free trial
  • Demo

Marketing teams can use sales data to answer questions or promote free trial offers or guided demos. Or, they might write a series of articles comparing your product to your competitors’. The goal is to emphasize value, answer questions, and make prospects believe your product is the right solution.

4. Delight

According to Bain & Company, acquiring new customers can be up to seven times more expensive than retaining an existing one. So, your efforts shouldn’t stop after the initial purchase.

In this phase, leads have already converted. The goal is to keep them engaged using content like newsletters, special offers, and blog content.

Email marketing is an effective way to ensure that customers stay informed—and remember your brand. Marketing teams can target different segments, with minimal effort.

For new customers, focusing on your onboarding process is one way to avoid confusion or overwhelm. A good example is Outbrain’s Bootcamp session.

They do a nice job breaking down complex features into bite-sized modules that help users get a feel for the platform.

Outbrain’s Bootcamp session onboarding

On-site content can also solve potential pain points. You might choose to set up a knowledge base that covers advanced features--like how-to guides or support documentation. Blog posts can address common questions customers—at all stages—typically ask.

Use sales insights for topic generation.

Marketing without data is like selling without “knowing the customer.” You're throwing everything at the wall with no context.

While content ideation is considered a creative process, that isn’t a fair representation. See, effective content uses data as a foundation.

Sales data from calls or reports can serve as the basis for content that speaks to each stage in the buying cycle. Reps hear objections, problems, and questions every day.

As you begin to build your content framework, Sales can help Marketing map out where in the funnel they get these common responses.

Here are some ideas on how to use data for new content ideas:

Recorded calls

Marketing can hear customers’ tone and learn which parts of the product/service need more explanation. It can also help them understand where objections happen most often.

Download numbers

Existing lead magnet downloads can give you a sense of when people download most—the awareness stage? Consideration? Are there assets that people completely ignore? These analytics are helpful for identifying which language and content formats resonate with your audience.

View communication records

Communication records provide context that doesn’t exist for those who don't own the opportunity or manage that client. You can understand how a customer talks about their problem—and meet them on their level. Identify gaps in knowledge and personalize messaging that connects with your different segments.

Sales reports

Again, analytics provide fertile ground for topic generation. For example, Copper’s advanced reporting tools allow you to filter by pipeline stage, referral source, and more. These insights can reveal which areas require more attention.

Copper CRM’s advanced reporting tools

Sales and marketing must unite.

Writing content tied to sales goals can be challenging.

Content development requires a collaborative knowledge base to meet customer needs. Not every rep can master the art of the blog post—but, the copywriters and bloggers from Marketing know this stuff well.

A content strategy might not seem like it belongs in a CRM, but it might be time to unite marketing and sales once and for all. Copper’s solution is a cloud-based central hub. Features like the Team Drive and the @Mention allow users to collaborate from anywhere.

Read more about CRM collaboration tools here.