Because of your sophisticated tracking and targeting, you know who’s reading your content. But do you know why they’re reading it? And how are you accessing those who could/should buy but are ignoring the articles your sending them?
Content is written with different reasons in mind: for Buyer Personas to learn about your solution as early along their decision path as possible; for brand recognition; to gain followers; to make a sale. We write with a narrow focus to reach our target market and use every means at our disposal to distribute and track it, hoping that it will help us make a sale or find more followers.
DATA VS DECISIONS
But how do you know if this content, with these ideas and these words, written in this style, will enable those seeking a new solution to recognize they need you? Not only are you seeking a reader you can’t fully know (Why are they reading the content? No. Really. Why? And how many possible buyers reject it because they’re not ready yet?), you’re hoping, guessing, tracking, targeting, and crossing your fingers in hopes it will get into the right hands at the right time to take action.
But your glorious content – sometimes little more than a thinly veiled advertisement – may not be getting you all the success you deserve. You have a ceiling of a 5% success rate (less than 1% for content marketing) because you’re limiting your readership to those who have already decided on their next actions. By sticking to data push, you’re missing an opportunity to make your content an interactive experience that enable the act of decision making. With a few adjustments, you can create content that can be used to facilitate a sale and expand and enlist your audience.
The problem starts with the use of content marketing as part of your sales/solution placement toolkit. Certainly content marketing is great for explaining, pitching, writing about, introducing, and presenting data about our solutions. But this usage limits our target audience to those who are ready to buy, and are also perusing competitive data.
When you think about the early activity within the act of buying – the Pre-Sales, change management, decision issues that include 13 steps to consensus/action (9 of which are Pre-Sales and not ‘needs’ or ‘buying’ related) – there’s a huge swath of prospective buyers who aren’t reading your content as it is because they’re not ready, but could easily be made ready with content that fits into the route of their Pre-Sales change management decisions. You can develop different types of relevant content so you’re with them each step of the way, even before they’re aware they might need you.
See, prior to deciding on a solution, buyers have some change work to do that’s systemic in nature and vital to them maintaining Systems Congruence – the rules, initiatives, relationships, and history of their culture and environment. They can’t just wake up one day, see your content, and drop everything and everyone mindlessly to do what you want them to do. No one buys like that.
Thinking that a prospective buyer ‘needs’ your content, or will be convinced or influenced to take action before they’re ready, is magical thinking and needlessly restricts your audience. Obvious, no? Before anyone buys anything they do research, get input and alternate ideas from friends/colleagues, discern the potential fallout, trial different possibilities, and ultimately get agreement to move forward. You content is only relevant when they’ve handled all of this. By pushing your message, you’re restricting buying. You can use content marketing to facilitate the process.
When it was time to begin marketing my book What? Did you really say what I think I heard? I had a problem. Known for my Buying Facilitation® material in the sales industry, I had no obvious audience in communication or listening. I had to attract a new audience: find new readers AND shift from being a ‘sales’ expert to a ‘communication’ expert. My goal was to offer corporate teams a one-day Listening Without Bias training. To do that I needed readers to first buy my book.
Realizing I’d need buy-in to run an in-house program, I wrote an article that would attract the largest population of readers because of the universal problems involved: meetings. I wrote a very helpful article on meetings that offered both a clear description of the inherent problems and offered very creative, tough, usable solutions to make them creative, collaborative, and results-oriented. I never mentioned anything to do with listening. There was no manipulation or commercial overlay in the article, no links to listening/book links appeared only in the footer.
I got dozens of ‘Thank You’ notes from readers I’d never heard of, saying they’d sent/shared my article among hundreds of employees, friends, and colleagues. Many, many people shared the article on social media, bringing me new readers and subscribers outside my natural market. The article was ranked as one of my best-read articles, with thousands reading it the first few days. And my book sales went through the rood: I had a 51% conversion rate.
So yes, content is vital. But it can be read by more prospective buyers, earlier in their decision path. Start by understanding each of the Pre-Sales issues (i.e. systemic changed-based, not ‘need’ based or solution-based) your buyers must address with their colleagues and partners, and then write articles that will help them along their normal route to making the internal decisions they’d need to make before they can buy. Then you’ll have proven your worth and be familiar to them. By the time they’re ready to buy and have all their internal ducks in a row, they’ll seek out your content.
Sharon Drew Morgen is an original thinker and visionary in systemic change in sales, coaching, leadership, collaboration, and listening. She is the author of 9 books, including NY Times Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and What?, as well as 1700 articles on buyer readiness, decision facilitation, and collaboration on her award-winning blog sharondrewmorgen.com.
She is the developer of the Servant Leader change model, Buying Facilitation®, that gives sellers the tools to help buyers manage their Pre-Sales decisions. Sharon Drew has worked with many Fortune 1000 companies such as IBM, DuPont, Kaiser, Bose, and GE.