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Content Marketing in a New COVID World Part Two

By: Thomas Young

Part Two: Automate Follow-Up, Integrate Sales and Marketing Teams and Better Network with Influencers and Referral Sources

In part one, we covered how powerful storytelling and a clear website flow are both keys to marketing success in the new world of COVID. In part two, we will discuss additional content strategies to reach your audience. Now that COVID is here to stay, in one form or another, digital content is more critical than ever. 

Many companies cover the content basics well with blogs and email marketing, but the best marketers go deeper with marketing automation, sales and marketing integration, and the use of influencers. Let’s take a close look at these three strategies.

Click here to read part one of this blog post.

Create Marketing Automation to Match Your Sales Funnel

Poor lead follow-up can lead to the failure of the best digital marketing efforts. Unfortunately, it is often nonexistent or ineffective for many organizations despite the fact people are not likely to buy without several brand impressions and contacts with your company. The good news is marketing automation, using tools like HubSpot, allows for follow-up strategies to reach customized levels never seen in the past. These tools are critical to digital marketing success. 

Marketing automation must be a part of your content strategy to drive sales with effective follow-up and reach customers during their anonymous research. Customers in the buying journey will hit milestones in their investigation of your products and services. These milestones will trigger marketing automation workflows. An example of this is email content available in their inbox as they research. Yes, people’s email inbox is also used for research. 

This automated content follow-up based on the user’s interaction with your brand is a crucial motivator moving prospects towards a sale.

Automation in HubSpot works because the software tracks the digital activities of anyone in the contact database. As a result, you can send customized content based on website visits, social interactions, email opens, and other call-to-actions (CTAs). These touchpoints make up your digital marketing sales funnel.

Get to Know Your Digital Marketing Sales Funnel

The digital sales funnel consists of steps or milestones a lead takes to research your brand and engagements that lead them to buy from you. The best marketers know this funnel very well and understand how people research their company. 

The major mistake marketers make in managing the funnel is jumping from the top to the bottom without properly nurturing leads. For example, if you reach out to someone who has recently given you their contact information with a sales pitch, you are not meeting them where they are in the sales funnel. People want to feel comfortable and get to know your company better before moving forward through the funnel. Setting up a series of actions nurturing them through the funnel will better use your time and team’s efforts. Ways to nurture your leads can include content, eBooks, webinars, videos, social media posts, and related types of content.

Get Serious About Follow-Up Emails and CRM

Many first impressions of your company come from Google searches resulting in a visit to your website’s homepage. Once you have the visitor’s attention and convert them into an inquiry, use follow-up content through social media and email marketing to nurture and engage them with your brand. 

A well-cultivated email automation process drives follow-up. It can take you from nurturing a few leads with a dedicated sales rep to reaching thousands of people with customized emails every week.

Investing in a robust marketing automation tool and CRM, such as HubSpot, is not optional. These tools are used to set up and manage the workflows and track data from every contact in your database to show the most effective tactics. Without this data, you are marketing blind and risk sending the wrong message to the wrong person at the wrong time.

Map Tasks and People to the Sales Funnel and Data

Even though people usually prefer to remain anonymous as they research your company, their research will not be very effective without your help. For your help to work, a plan is needed, don’t wing it! You will need to identify and create specific milestones or touchpoints throughout the digital marketing funnel. It is also critical to assign team members to develop and manage each of these milestones. 

At the heart are the middle of funnel tactics to drive inquiries. Work on content for webinars, eBooks, in-depth articles, whitepapers, PDF downloads, and more. Team members must be assigned to each to make this happen and be responsible for the results from each tactic.

Carefully keep track of your contacts as they move through the funnel by monitoring conversion and funnel milestones. This data will provide insights into which tactics are working and the types of contacts converting. Use the data from your CRM, Google Analytics, Google Search Console, HubSpot, and other tracking tools. Data drives awareness; awareness drives change, and change leads to opportunities for sales growth. 

Align Sales and Marketing Teams to Supercharge Funnel Growth

In today’s competitive online space, marketing and sales teams must work together to maximize sales results. This environment builds a competitive advantage, improves performance, and increases sales revenues. To further dive into this development, I will publish a book later this year with sales consultant Karl Becker on this very subject. This integration is critical to your sales funnel.

In the normal flow of the buyer’s journey, there are points where a lead may choose to move from looking at marketing content to speaking with a salesperson. The best way to ensure these leads don’t get lost is to create a harmonious single team out of your two departments, brought together through a shared mission. Look for more on this topic coming soon in my new book and future blog posts.

Historically, there has always been friction between sales and marketing teams. If the sales team has trouble closing, they often blame marketing for the quality of the leads. If marketing brings in many leads, they often blame the sales team for not having the skills to close the sale. A few steps to overcome these issues are for both teams to share responsibilities for content tasks in the funnel, share sales goals, and review funnel data. Shared goals and responsibilities help bridge the gaps between the teams.

One of the best ways to create alignment is by integrating your CRM and marketing automation tools and creating a centralized location where marketing and sales teams can come together and make a difference in revenue and sales.

Get Sales and Marketing Aligned in Meetings

Many companies keep their sales and marketing team in silos, and they rarely meet, making it difficult for both departments to grow together and reach common goals. To get your sales and marketing teams working together effectively, you need regular meetings to talk and analyze sales and marketing data and movement in the funnel. Meetings are also effective for brainstorming ways to improve sales and marketing processes. It also ensures sales and marketing team members communicate the same messages to your prospects rather than contradicting each other. Messaging and content coming from the marketing team and sales discussions with prospects can be aligned to focus on what works. What works is always best defined by your target market and current customers.

Share Content Duties and Funnel Management

When you align sales and marketing teams, you will be happily surprised by all the talents and insights that come from their cooperation. For example, some of your salespeople may be good at storytelling and creating content. You may have marketing people who have a mind for mid-funnel tactics that inspire leads to make appointments with a salesperson. These new insights from your teams will support underperforming parts of the funnel. There is the additional benefit of improved morale and a stronger bottom line.

The Power of Influencers (Your Missing Digital Marketing Link)

Along with marketing automation and the alignment of sales and marketing teams, companies must take advantage of influencer strategies to help grow sales. Before COVID, sales reps could meet people in person, shake hands and collect business cards. In-person networking has all but disappeared in the time of COVID. Sales reps must now use online networking to make those connections. Online networking can happen through LinkedIn and a deliberate effort to find people who would refer business to you. Many of these referral sources will have their own audience online. Keep in mind; these influencers need content to keep growing their follower base.

More than an article in the Wall Street Journal or a spot on CNN, online influencers can be the best PR source for your business. An influencer can be defined as anyone who refers people to your brand. Social media personalities are some of the most powerful sources of referrals in a COVID online ecosystem. Unfortunately, many marketing teams are not taking full advantage of influencers’ power, which is a missed opportunity.

Build a Database of Influencers

Many companies consider influencers only to be effective in marketing to consumers, but this is not true. Influencers can also drive sales for B2B firms as well.

Here’s how to start:

  • Research who in your industry has the eyes and ears of your target market. 
  • Check across social media platforms like LinkedIn, websites, video platforms such as YouTube and Vimeo and find relevant podcasts. 
  • See who is getting lots of online engagement from the type of customers you would like to reach and add those influencers to your database to contact through your marketing automation platform.

PR, Thought Leadership and Traffic Generation

The sales funnel for influencers will be different than for customers. They will most likely not research your company and contact you. You will need to be proactive and reach out to them. However, if you have good content to share that succinctly demonstrates your thought leadership, they are more likely to work with you and share your content with their audience. This trend is especially true in B2B marketing. If you need help determining your pillars of thought leadership, read our blog on the subject.

Summary

As a business leader or sales and marketing professional, crafting, collaborating, and automating your content is one of the most rewarding digital marketing tactics to increase engagement, sales leads, and ultimately revenue. Telling a meaningful story about your company and how it can help resolve your customers’ pain points must be a top priority, especially in our new COVID world, where so many interactions occur in a digital setting.

Working with influencers and referral sources directly drives brand awareness and creates sales opportunities. However, we find that this tactic is missing from many marketing team’s strategies and action items.

You get the best results when your sales and marketing teams work together to communicate your value from the top to the bottom of your sales funnel. If done well, this will become a competitive advantage for your company.

COVID has changed the world, and digital marketing has not been left out of this disruption. Take advantage of these digital marketing strategies and tactics to improve the performance of your sales and marketing teams and grow revenues.

Author profile
Thomas Young

Thomas Young is the CEO and Founder of Intuitive Websites. He is a consultant, award winning Vistage speaker and author of Winning the Website War available on Amazon. Tom has helped thousands of companies succeed online and has over 20 years digital marketing experience.

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