Attention: Every year, three in five businesses suffer from what is known as Leaky Funnel Syndrome (LFS). If you or a loved one have been affected by this sales and marketing illness, your content marketing strategy may be in need of immediate treatment.
Ok, so that statistic is bogus, but the lead generation challenge is anything but! Last week, Jeanne Hopkins led a lively webinar called Inbound Marketing 101: An Easier, Cheaper and More Effective Guide to Marketing. During the panel discussion, Jeanne addressed common MSP concerns about marketing, stressing that it is not as easy as it looks and providing a deeper understanding on how you can create meaningful content for people in all stages of the new buyer's journey. What is this new buyer behavior and how can you align your sales and marketing funnel around it so that the right leads close in to clients and don't leak out?
As a content marketer, I recognize that people in my line of work often underestimate the amount of time and resources that are needed to sustain an effective content marketing strategy. For most of you that come from a purely technical background, marketing in any form is uncharted territory and it makes more sense to invest your already limited time and staff in service-related areas of your business. I totally get that! But too often, I also have seen MSPs jump to the conclusion that marketing doesn't work for their business. They either tried to get it off the ground to no avail or didn't even know where to begin and decided to call it quits.
Rather than abandoning your marketing activities altogether, however, you need to learn how to market smarter, not harder. And in order to do that, you must know how to generate workable leads that can be qualified and guided down the sales and marketing funnel, until they eventually close into clients. Have you ever experienced leaks in your funnel and lost a viable lead or prospect that had a high likelihood of closing, but not known why? Do you know how to determine which leads are closer to a purchasing decision than others and how to use content marketing to push them over the threshold? If you're struggling to yield any return on your marketing spend, it's time to rethink your approach. Let's start by first examining the new buyer's journey.
Understanding the New Buyer's Journey and Getting on an SMB's Radar
Content is a critical component of any solid sales and marketing funnel strategy, as is understanding the way people shop for goods and services today. After all, how can you sell your managed IT services, if you don't know how your ideal prospects make their purchasing decisions and what information they look for when evaluating providers?
Gone are the days when a business need only place an ad in the Yellow Pages to get found. Buyer behavior has been transformed by the advent of the Internet and explosion of new communication mediums, like social media and online review sites. According to Salesforce, it takes roughly six to eight touches to generate a viable sales lead. As a result, consistent and frequent online visibility and engagement is now more important than ever before. During our recent webinar, available for download below, Jeanne announced that there's been a paradigm shift: Now, Google is your new business card. If you're not acutely aware of all of the various ways leads interact with your brand online, you risk losing them for good. Again, this is that funnel leak you want to avoid.
So how are people using online search to make informed opinions about your MSP business? Behold, the new buyer's journey:
As you can see, the new purchase journey is anything but linear. People don’t follow a fixed set of steps when working their way through your sales funnel. Whereas before, you could count on simpler marketing activities–like delivering pamphlets to consumer residences–to solicit sales calls, now clients are actively researching your company via branded and non-branded search.
This categorizes a buyer’s online activity when they’re actively looking for more information about your company. When was the last time you “Googled” your company? Try it, and see what comes up! Is the information accurate and favorable? For instance, the resulting business phone number should connect callers to the right line. Consider how many of your clients could be referring your services to their colleagues. Perhaps one of these new potential clients looks you up online. What would they find? SMB buyers may choose to scope out your blog to see how up-to-date and informational it is. Alternatively, they might search for reviews on Yelp or customer service feedback on Twitter. And these are only a handful of ways that prospects make judgments about your company before you’ve even had a chance to begin the sales dialogue. In short, they’re looking to consume as much content about your company as possible. This is why having a content marketing plan is so crucial.
This captures search queries that don’t mention your company by name. Consider how you find suitable restaurants when on travel. Sure, you may look up the menu of an eatery your friend suggested, but more often than not, you type something like “best Italian restaurants in [city, state]” or “budget and family-friendly restaurants near me” into your browser search bar. The same applies for SMBs in need of your managed services. They could be searching for “solutions to network downtime” or “IT support services in my area.” How will they find you and be compelled to learn more? Again, content marketing can help increase your online visibility, brand recognition and credibility.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a major factor in getting your content found online. Check out this deck for an SEO overview and website improvement tips!
Mapping Content to Each Stage of The New Buyer’s Journey
Content marketing prevents a leaky sales and marketing funnel, but only when it works with, not against, that funnel. Essentially, you have to distribute the right content to the right people at the right time. For example, someone who’s looking to switch MSPs will find value in information that’s entirely different from content that’s written for leads higher up in the funnel. But how do content and buyer behavior map to a lead’s position within the overall sales and marketing funnel? When crafting your content marketing plan, keep the following purchasing stages in mind:
Starting at the top of the funnel and working our way down…
This is the funnel phase in which SMBs discover and become more aware of your brand. SMBs in this stage are looking for answers to questions and solutions to problems that may not necessarily pertain to your services. Still, you want to capture this search traffic with relevant content, so that you can get these visitors to convert into leads.
Example of Content: Create an overview of the X number of Microsoft® Office hacks that every SMB needs to know to be productive, and require people to fill out a form to get it. That way, you can capture their contact information and follow up. We regularly provide this kind of content for MSPs who may not have the time to develop it. Check out 5 Awesome Windows Feature You Never Knew Existed for inspiration!
At this point, leads that are still engaged are beginning to investigate your managed IT services solution. They browse your website, navigating to solutions pages for more information. Note that if they’re researching your company, prospects in this stage are likely shopping around. What will differentiate your Web content from that of your competitors?
Example of Content: Enhance the copy on your solutions page by featuring a video explaining how your service works. Our partners swear by the white labeled product videos we offer! Also, if you've perused any of our own product pages, you'll see that we like telling our story through video too.
During this stage, leads more seriously assess your offering to see if it meets their business needs and requirements. If you hope to attract clients in the healthcare vertical, for instance, these organizations will leak out your funnel if they don’t discover any Web content asserting your HIPAA compliant services.
Example of Content: Jeanne stressed the importance of social proof in our Inbound Marketing 101 webinar, and client testimonials are a form of social proof that especially make for effective positioning. Reach out to one of your healthcare clients and have them prepare a statement about why they work with you to maintain HIPAA compliance. Post this quote to your website and share socially to build trust with companies who may be wary of leaving their sensitive data in your hands. Do you need help conducting testimonials? We provide tips as well as an easy-to-use case study template here!
Leads that have made it this far are sitting on the fence. They need to justify and quantify the value of your offering, and your sales team needs to raise enough internal buy-in.
Example of Content: Are you struggling to close your backup and disaster recovery (BDR) sales? Next time, you're appealing to leads that fall within this bucket, demonstrate the value of your business continuity solution by calculating the cost of downtime for the average SMB. This allows you to quantify how much your BDR services can assist in increasing business efficiency, productivity and profitability, as well as helps you gain support from key sales gatekeepers.
This takes you to the bottom of your sales and marketing funnel, but you're not done after that. Download our webinar below to learn about the post-purchase stages of content marketing!
- If you don't think your marketing efforts have generated enough ROI, reassess and adjust your strategy
- Effective content marketing requires a comprehensive understanding of your target market and where they fall within the buyer's journey at a given point in time
- The market is now buyer-controlled rather than seller-controlled, meaning prospects are forming opinions about your company before ever talking to your sales representatives
- You have to adapt your content marketing strategy to this new buyer's journey, ensuring you're found online through branded and nonbranded search
- To prevent leads from leaking out of your sales and marketing funnel, serve meaningful content that corresponds to their position within the buyer's journey
- Maintain consistent and frequent touches to qualify viable leads for future sales