5 Ways Your B2B Content Marketing Program Can Fail

b2b marketing planIn 2014, your content marketing program is an integral part of your overall sales process. If your content is unsuccessful, that ultimately spells trouble for sales and the company overall.

To help you implement an effective B2B content marketing program, here are the five most common things we see that cause content marketing programs to fail:

1.  Lack of strategy

While the majority of B2B companies are now engaged in content marketing (93%), it seems that many are doing so without any type of documented strategy in place. A October 2013 study from the Content Marketing Institute found that only 44% of B2B companies had a documented content strategy in place. The study also found:

“A documented strategy makes a difference, as 84 percent of marketers who say they are ineffective at content marketing said they have no documented strategy. B2B marketers who have a documented content strategy are far more likely to consider themselves effective (66 percent vs. 11 percent).”

So, if you don’t have a clear strategy currently backing your content marketing efforts, that is the best place to start. A content strategy should include elements like high-level objectives and goals (e.g. increase awareness, generate leads) as well as the specific tactics (e.g. get followers on social, execute email marketing campaigns) that will be used to achieve those goals.

2.  Lack of production process

The next place a content marketing strategy can fail is in the actual production of the content itself. A lot of companies can generate great content ideas, but then don’t have the processes in place to make sure the content is created, edited and shared.

There are a number of different ways companies can manage content production, and the best way will likely be determined by the size of the company and the amount of content being produced. Solutions range from Excel spreadsheets to track production stages to highly sophisticated project management softwares that can manage content production across different brands or channels.

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The “Self-Diagnosis Dilemma”

self diagnosis in sales outsourcing

I work the front end of our sales process, taking Inbound calls from interested companies looking for help with their sales. Inevitably, we see the same scenarios play out and the same issues come up over and over again. One issue that has come up a lot recently is what we call the “self-diagnosis dilemma.”

An executive or SVP of sales reaches out with the core problems of:

  • They need a bigger pipe
  • They need more leads
  • They need faster revenue traction

Often, what we see happen is when companies are looking for kind of outside help, they have some preconceived notions in their mind about what tactics will work. They will say something like, “I don’t need any content; I just need callers,” or “I just need you to set appointments.”

While it is great that people are trying to take some action to improve their sales efforts, self-diagnosing in this way does not always produce the best results.

For example, let’s say you have a runny nose and a cough and diagnosis yourself with a common cold, which you would normally treat with some over-the-counter medicine. However, when you go to your doctor, he tells you that you most definitely have whooping cough and need antibiotics—the over-the-counter stuff won’t cut it.

So, while symptoms may look the same on the surface—whether it be a runny nose or low conversion ratios—a qualified domain expert with years of experience servicing multiple customers successfully on a daily basis probably has a better understanding of what solution is most appropriate.

Experts are experts because they can see big picture ideas that others miss, and they are able to discover new solutions to difficult problems. And while it was somewhat easy to become a marketing expert 10 years ago, the sales and marketing landscape has changed dramatically with the proliferation of digital and is now much more complex on both a social and technological level.

So, if your company’s sales are struggling going at it alone, it would probably benefit you to be open to an expert’s advice before haphazardly concocting your own home-remedy.

If you would like to know more about the value of outsourcing B2B sales, read Scale Your Business for Sales with Sales Outsourcing. Feel free to contact us with any questions.

Get Your CEO Out of the Way of Your Sales Process

Man in suit in gray backgroundFor many B2B companies, a gigantic sales staff is not in their arsenal. This is understandable; many B2B companies are small and have to stretch the resources they do have. Because of this, the CEO sometimes ends up taking on the role of the entire sales department, from the junior rep who does cold calls to the senior executive that closes.

From our experience selling B2B products and services for the past 13 years, we have found that there are several issues with this approach.

It may seem like a good idea to have your CEO selling through the entire sales process, as he knows the most and is the most senior. But in reality, he does not belong selling at the front of the pipe. It is like walking through the front door of a business and seeing the CEO sitting at the receptionist desk. It just doesn’t feel right.

This is because selling this way creates issues with perception. If your CEO is the first person a prospect interacts with at your company, he or she may be left wondering, “Is there no one else working there that can take my call?” or “Why isn’t someone else doing this?”

Additionally, this practice is inefficient in regards to business. If your CEO is selling to every prospect that comes in the pipe, he is going to spend a lot of time selling to people who are simply kicking tires. Because your CEO is your highest value employee, having him sell to people who are not really interested equates to a lot of time and money wasted.

The reality of B2B sales today is in the early stages of the sales process, prospects simply want to know you understand their problem as they explore their solution options and short list preferred vendors. When a prospect is new to the sales pipeline, they may be quite overwhelmed by their problem. A senior executive may exacerbate this feeling by speaking beyond the prospects grasp of the issue, moving to quickly or just creating an environment where the prospect is overwhelmed with jargon, numbers and statistics. Regardless of the situation, no one likes to feel like they are way behind.

Here are our suggestions for an alternative approach:

  • Hold your CEO back in the early stages of selling and use his expertise and passion as a closing tool.
  • Clone your CEO’s early-stage sales efforts into digital content that can be shared one-to-many by more junior employees
  • Use your CEOs expertise when other executives are at the table who are peers and speak the same ‘language’

This approach does several things. First, it increases your bandwidth for selling by enabling you to engage with many people simultaneously. It also allows you to determine what parts of your sales or marketing process are working and what aren’t. Finally, it allows your highest value employee to focus on your highest value activities—closing, delivering and growing the business.

For more B2B sales tips, read “3 Reasons Your B2B Sales is Failing”. Please feel free to contact us with any questions.

An Alternative B2B Approach to “Getting More Leads” in 2014

b2b lead nurturing and sales pipeline managementAs we take a look at the end of the year industry reports coming out that discuss the main B2B sales and marketing challenges going into 2014, we see the consensus of B2B marketers is that “getting more leads” is their number one challenge.

If your goal is to increase sales revenue, it is rational to want more leads; more leads equals more prospects, which equals more conversions and therefore more deals. However, as a B2B integrated sales and marketing outsourcing company who has run hundreds of sales and marketing campaigns for dozens of clients, we have seen a different approach to be much more effective.

From our perspective, the reason many B2B companies are constantly crying for more leads is that they are not effectively working the ones they already have. Consider these statistics:

  • 5% of your market is ready to buy at any given time (Selling Power Magazine)
  • 80% of leads are passed to sales before they are ready to engage (Marketing Sherpa)
  • 70% of mishandled leads buy from a competitor (Forrester)

So, here is what is happening: A company gets a lead, and marketing sees a general level of interest. The marketing team then passes the lead on to sales before anyone takes the time to fully understand where the prospect is at in his or her buying cycle. Sales then determines that the lead is not interested or not ready to buy, and the lead is essentially thrown in the trash (or given to your competitor).

This is another example of the traditional sales model lingering in the digital space. The old way of selling said to ‘sell hard and fast upfront’ and keep pushing to the close. The problem is that this sales model does not work anymore. Not only that, but if you try to use this technique on buyers today, they will run. Fast.

Buyers are now in control of the sales cycle—they get to choose what marketing content to view and when to view it, when to engage with sales and when to buy. If you get in your buyer’s way while they are doing this with pushy sales messages or phone calls, you will come off as annoying or worse, threatening.

Rather than a traditional sales approach to lead generation, B2B companies need to engage in lead nurturing and sales pipeline management in 2014.

Lead nurturing addresses the problem of only 5% of your market being ready to buy at any given time. B2B lead nurturing generally consists of sending out early-stage educational content that is non-threatening and helps your prospects move through their own discovery and education around your product/service. When your prospect is finally ready to buy, he will be so grateful to for genuinely educating him that he will call up your sales rep and make a purchase.

Sales pipeline management is a way of managing lead generation, conversion and nurturing. By tracking your prospects activity across all marketing and sales tactics (content marketing, email campaigns, website activity, social media, etc.), you get a better understanding of where each prospect is in his or her buying cycle.

For example, if a prospect is only clicking in early-stage, educational blogs, you know they are not ready to buy. If a prospect is instead clicking on customer testimonials and pricing pages, you know it is time for a sales rep to pick up the phone.

By using digital strategies like lead nurturing and sales pipeline management, you ensure that you are not throwing away leads to early. To implement these strategies, you simply need to map out your sales process and create marketing content to fit each stage of your buyers’ buying cycle, then push the content at the appropriate time (using your marketing automation solution), track engagement and finally, bring in the closer when buying signals have been shown.

If this seems complicated or overwhelming, here are several resources to help you get started:

If you are interested in learning about the leads nurturing and sales pipeline management services we offer, you can visit our services page. Feel free to contact us with any questions.

Stagnant Sales? Try Outsourcing Sales Reps

In the world of B2B sales, many people are starting to notice that the sales and marketing strategies that worked a few years ago (trade shows, cold calling, etc.) are no longer as effective as they used to be. With no visibility into how and why this is, it is hard to determine how to rectify the issue. However, Outsourcing Sales Reps can be solution.

outsourcing sales repsAs a sales and marketing outsourcing company with over 13 years of experience helping B2B companies jumpstart their sales and grow their revenue, we have been on the front lines of these changes and can therefore offer some insight into what has happened and how to proceed.

From our perspective, selling is no longer as effective as it used to be because more and more products are “bought” then “sold” everyday. This is because the democratic and participatory nature of the internet put power into the hands of the buyer, who now controls the sales process from start to close. B2B buyers now educate themselves about their buying options online and only engage with sales reps when it is absolutely necessary.

In order to adapt to the way B2B leads now like to buy, many companies are choosing to look into outsourcing sales reps who have experience with this new kind of selling. By taking on an outsourced sales force, you gain the knowledge and expertise of a team that lives and breathes sales as well as their experience selling to consumers in a digital landscape.

Here are several instances when outsourcing sales reps from a sales and marketing outsourcing company can be an effective strategy:

  • Your core competency is something other than sales/marketing (i.e. manufacturing, new product development, etc.)
  • You haven’t updated your marketing strategy since “branding” and “positioning” were the hot buzzwords
  • You have yet to look into how a marketing automation platform impacts sales
  • Your top employees are currently stuck focusing on sales instead of innovation or serving customers
  • You are a startup who has yet to break into the market
  • You have a new product to launch and need help getting it in front of your ideal customers

While there are many more instances when outsourcing sales reps can help, these are some of the most common. If you are considering an outsourced sales team to help your B2B sales, there are several things you need to consider to make sure you choose the best team for your business.

If you would like to learn more about how the rules of B2B buying and selling have changed and what you need to do to adapt, you can download our white paper. If you are interested in learning about the sales and marketing outsourcing services we offer, you can visit our Services page.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact us.

3 Reasons Your B2B Sales is Failing (Part 2)

BankruptcyThis is the second half of a blog series giving three reasons for why you might be struggling with B2B sales in 2013. For the first half of the blog, click here.

2.  You aren’t reaching all of your decision makers.

In the 80s and 90s, closing a deal in the B2B world usually required selling to just one decision-maker. Since the early 2000s, it has been common to sell to both a business buyer and a technical buyer. Today, many companies are bringing even more people into the buying decision including CMOs, HR executives and non-IT personnel.

These new and varied types of decision-makers need new and varied types of marketing content to reach a buying decision.  For example, the head of HR is not likely too concerned with P&L figures, but the CEO definitely is. If you don’t have marketing content readily available for both types of decision-makers, one of them is going to feel that his/her needs were not met.

To reach all of your decision-makers effectively, you need to understand how each of them looks at the buying decision and what their main concerns or objectives are. You can then build segmented marketing campaigns for each type that speaks directly to their specific needs and concerns.

3.  You are the only one telling your story.

A recent industry report by the CMO Council found that the most valuable source of marketing content in shaping buying decisions is professional associations and online communities. The second most valuable is industry organizations and groups. So, if the only place online advocating your products or services is your website, you aren’t giving your prospects any reason to trust you.

Buyers today are easily turned off by messaging that is overtly sales-y or that tries to close the deal right away.  For this reason, many buyers are going to third-party or peer created communities to gather information about B2B product/services options.  Getting your content promoted by an online community or industry organization usually requires a connection of some kind, but connections are what B2B sales in 2013 is all about.  To start, join the communities or groups you would like to promote your company and become an active member; leave comments, answer questions, ask for advice.  Once you have established a reputation as a helpful and insightful thought-leader, these groups will likely be more than willing to publish something to help with your marketing objectives.

Another great option is to ask to post a guest article on an industry leader’s blog or ask an industry leader to write an article for your blog. The key here is to get people and mediums other than you and your website involved in telling your brand’s story.

In summary, what these three reasons for failure have in common is a lack of connection to the customer.  In order to succeed in today’s world of B2B digital content marketing, knowing everything possible about your customer and their online behavior is imperative. Once you know who your customer is, what your customer likes and doesn’t like, and what he/she needs to see to make a decision, the path forward is clear.

For more B2B sales tips, click here.