Sales and Marketing: What’s Next 2021

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Sales and Marketing: What’s Next

What’s next in sales and marketing? Consumers are demanding more value, and more autonomy throughout the customer journey. The marketing industry must not only provide deeper value to consumers from advertising, they must also strike a balance between profit and privacy. A recent Harris Poll  revealed 63% consumers expect personalization “as a standard of service.” They also expect and deserve to choose whether to be tracked or not, whether to see ads.

We (marketers and sales pros) have a whole bakery of delicious solutions in the oven. We want to meet buyers where they are, and we want to keep them happy. Content marketing, partnership marketing streams, influencer targeting, and first party data, to name a few. And they’re all low calorie, hypo-allergenic, and gluten free, too!

Content Marketing

Part of what’s next in sales and marketing is content marketing and advertising is back, and now it links to sales through message clarity. First off, it doesn’t have that “someone is watching you” stink to it. It’s more topical, and less distracting. Secondly, appropriate affiliate ads do well on strong content, and content itself can be a great ad. This means producing and distributing better and more relevant content.

If you’ve resisted breaking out your content strategy into funnel segments or marketing personas, it’s time to rethink that strategy. This article from Singlegrain explains which content goes where to help you manage your content funnel. A great takeaway is that content-as-ads works. Consumers hate ads, but they like to be informed and entertained – enter content – and they appreciate relevant offers (affiliate and imbedded ads) while that’s happening.

This doesn’t mean you should just start dumping content out into the wild. Structure your content into reader sets: who is involved in the decision making process for your sales? Each one of those personas is a reader set. Distribute content geared toward each of their pain points and knowledge levels. In other words, don’t write everything at the level of the digital architect, or the procurement manager, or the end user. Each stakeholder has their own vocabulary, set of pain points, and interests. Create some content for each of them so you become a known and trusted resource across all of their internal departments.

Sales and Content

Your sales team loves content marketing because the result is a more educated consumer. If your content strategy includes lead magnets and contact forms, you’re creating a pool of self-identified marketing qualified leads. What’s not to love?

When those leads come in, where do they go? Do you have a sales team handle them? Are the responses automated? Do they go to marketing? Is there a chatbot on the blog page? It’s time to up your game here and have personalized automated responses that are managed by your sales team. You need to be ready to interact with your customer at a sales level within minutes of them being ready for you – or they’ll move on.

Another key to making your content funnel truly successful is to stay on message when sales begins to interact. The content that attracted your prospect is the content that engaged them. Your buyer has just handed you the keys to the kingdom – don’t lock yourself out by ignoring the message! Instead, use it as the basis for your first and second level discovery questions.

Influencer Targeting

Influencer targeting can fill another gap. Shift to looking at the behaviors of known individuals and influencers. If you attract the attention and affection of someone influential in your market, you’ll create an advocate based on value, not just on dollars. This method allows your brand to meet customers in the places and times they are likely to pay attention, including a variety of social media interactions. You’ll need to identify your targets and focus on learning their digital presence. Then you need to present them with the content you’d like them to engage with and share.

This is time consuming work. Depending on the size of your business, you may only need one or two influencers engaged at any time, which lightens the load considerably. This is a shared job between sales and marketing. Remember, your sales team are experts in real-time engagements, and they should be working on direct contact with any influencers!

Once an influencer is involved, be cool – no fanboy/girl behavior here. Talk to your key account our strategic account manager and your marketing director, and get on the same page. What do you want out of this relationship? How do you make it happen? Once an influencer has self-identified as interested, your chances of having a successful paid relationship are higher, but some influencers specifically avoid these relationships. Like any sales relationship, work out what your desired outcome is, learn the influencers needs and goals, and work together to achieve great things!

First Party Data

Organizations have access to lots of first party data through prospect interactions, but often it doesn’t get collected and stored. Why? (You’ve got me. I’ve been advocating for this stuff to go into your CRM since 1999!) Maybe it’s because there are still businesses trying to avoid analytics and data-grounded strategies. But think of what your front line employees learn every day…

As enterprise sales moves to a MEDDPICC sales qualification strategy en masse, it’s obvious that they’ve figured out it works. The trick? All of these qualification criteria are first party! And many of them are mentioned in customer service calls, sales calls, marketing calls – it’s data that your prospects volunteer over time. If you want to increase deal velocity and improve forecasting accuracy you need to get good at first party data.

Marketing and First Party Data

Once there is a strategy in place to collect and store your first party data (Claravine 2021) your marketing team can get to work using it. Stronger buyer personas should be the first result, and that’s huge. It will educate your content funnel and all your interactive messaging. Ad placement, too. Building personas this way is a little more time intensive and skill dependent than guessing, but it’s a whole lot more effective!

Now pair that group of personas with your plan for deeper content, and consider where you want to place guest content. What blogs and podcasts have the content your personas are consuming now? How can you partner with that? Invite those content creators to post on your platforms and work to become guests on theirs. Keep your messaging on point, and fill that funnel!