Manufacturers and industrial companies that believe in content marketing are seeing good results from their efforts. However, most of the success is at the beginning of the sales pipeline or top of the sales funnel if you prefer the funnel metaphor.
Where many of these companies are struggling are in the middle and end of the sales pipeline. In other words, deals are stuck and they can’t figure out the problem.
The typical scenario is one where all went well with the sales presentation and suddenly your sales person can’t get the lead to return his/her calls or emails. Many of these deals fail to close even after 6 to 8 months of the best efforts from the sales team.
This is not an uncommon problem in complex B2B and industrial sales. Pam Ansley Evans, a global marketing practitioner and a former IBM executive, had this to say in a recent BtoB Magazine article, “…for lead generation, the area I don’t feel content has been used effectively is in pipeline acceleration. Marketing usually does a good job of messaging and presenting the value proposition; but there’s less activity in providing sales with content to share during the final phases of the customer purchase decision.”
What went wrong and how can content marketing accelerate your sales pipeline?
SiriusDecisions defines three different types of pipeline acceleration strategies. They are:
- Rapid-entry: processes for stimulating activity at the top of the pipeline.
- Intra-pipeline: acceleration of an opportunity that has been assigned a dollar value and an anticipated close rate.
- Last-mile: focuses on the very end of the pipeline, and those deals that require a final positive interaction.
One would have to take their course on Pipeline Acceleration for B-to-B Marketers to fully understand those strategies and implement them correctly. What I can tell you is that industrial content marketing must enable sales to move deals forward and not be restricted to filling the sales pipeline with leads. (See my post, “Content Marketing Must Go Beyond Inbound Marketing in Industrial Sales.”)
I read a very interesting article written by Craig Rosenberg, a co-founder of TOPO and the author of the sales and marketing blog Funnelholic. In his article, Craig talks about the concept of “Champion Content.” Champion content is content designed specifically for your internal champion who is interested in your solution but must navigate his/her own organization to help advance the deal.”
I like that concept because it is very appropriate in industrial sales where the sales team’s first contact is usually a specifier such as a Design Engineer or a Plant Manager. Everything flows smoothly through the presentation stage and the RFQ. Your contact is excited about your solution and then suddenly the opportunity stalls from a lack of response from the customer.
Often, there are various stakeholders involved in the buying decision and they all have their own agendas which sometimes compete with each other. It is difficult to uncover these internal roadblocks because your sales team may not be given the opportunity to get in front of all the stakeholders since all communications must flow through the specifier.
The solution lies in creating an evangelist who will carry your message and sell your solution internally.
According to Craig, “Champion content is a great example of using content to facilitate the buying process and ultimately accelerate your sales pipeline and close more deals. Champion content is provided to your internal champion to help them sell your project internally.” His article goes into great details about this aspect of content marketing and he has provided four examples of champion content.
Are you struggling with your industrial sales pipeline? How do you use content marketing to accelerate it?