The 4-Stage Content Strategy to Increase Sales
What’s the key to telling stories that sell?
Make sure your content is tailored to the right stage in the sales cycle.
Otherwise, no matter how well-written your content might be, if it’s not appropriate to where the customer is on your sales cycle, your message will fall flat.
After all, if you push too early in the relationship with a “buy now” call-to-action, you can’t expect a high conversation rate. The buyer simply isn’t ready to make the commitment you’re asking of them because they don’t know you or trust you…yet.
How do you change that dynamic?
Align your content strategy with your sales strategy.
Law of the Harvest: A Strategic Approach to Building Trust, Boosting Sales
Here’s what I mean.
As you craft your content strategy, think like a high-performing sales pro. That is...in order to "reap" consistent sales, you must regularly "sow" the right activities at the right time to hit your numbers.
In other words, you need to continually find new leads and cultivate those relationships over time. This way, you are building trust with prospects, nudging them along each step of the way, until they're “ripe for harvest” as new customers.
I call this process the "Law of the Harvest," where the sales cycle is comprised of four distinct stages designed for building trust: Sowing, Cultivating, Reaping and Multiplying.
Here’s the idea.
Successful sales pros know that even when they're "reaping" new contracts, they must continue to "work the land" today by performing other tasks (such as prospecting and follow-up calls) to ensure they will reap a harvest of sales tomorrow, the next day and so forth.
So design your content strategy with the same principle in mind. Tailor each piece of content (whether it's a brochure, e-mail newsletter, blog post, or white paper) for the appropriate stage in the sales cycle.
Your content strategy would look something like this:
The idea here is that your prospects and clients will be at different stages, at different times. So you want to craft each story to nudge each prospect—wherever they may be on the "Trust Continuum"—toward the next stage and, ultimately, a purchase decision.
But how do you determine what type of content and stories will be most appropriate and effective at each stage in the sales cycle?
Here's a breakdown of the four stages to serve as your guide.
Stage 1: Sowing
In this stage, you’re trying to sow the seed of your message in the minds of as many qualified prospects as possible. You're not going to spend a lot of time talking about price or what a great deal you have to offer or asking prospects to buy NOW because they don't yet really know you— nor do they trust you. They're not going to be very responsive to a hard-sell message.
Therefore, the goal in Stage 1 is simply to open the door to a relationship, inviting them to learn more or to follow your company via its social media channels or to subscribe to an e-newsletter so your company can keep them posted on latest product updates.
Some of the appropriate content tools to help you earn a prospect's permission to market to them include:
Inquiry (introductory) email
Thought leadership content (blog posts, bylined articles, case studies, white papers, webinars)
Corporate capabilities/ product brochures
Direct mailers (sales letters, postcards, flyers)
Ads in print, broadcast, and/or digital media
Motivate audience to give you permission to market to them. These contacts become part of your database that you will nurture in the next stage.
Stage 2: Cultivating
Once you’ve established contact with prospects, how do you cultivate the relationship?
This is your follow-up phase. These people already know about you; now you’re looking for ways to move them closer to buying from you. Here are a few ways to accomplish this objective:
Newsletters/e-newsletters (informative articles, brand journalism)
Case studies (customer success stories)
Birthday and anniversary cards (exclusive offer tied to that special day)
Special announcements letting prospects know about great deals, new products or services, special events and so on (press releases, email updates, postcards, flyers, etc.)
Courtesy follow-up email/ phone calls (boilerplate series of "touch base" emails, call script).
1. Schedule an appointment to demo the product
2. Motivate the audience to request quote/ proposal.
The purpose is to develop marketing tools and messaging that build as much rapport as possible with prospects so they are more likely to do business with you, and not a competitor.
Stage 3: Reaping
At this point, the prospect's trust-level with your company is high enough for them to ask for a proposal. Now, it's your job is to craft the sales proposal in a way that builds upon that trust and presents a convincing case.
Make the proposal clear, concise, and compelling with “Next Steps” that guide the prospect on how they can move forward with the order.
Stage 4: Multiplying
This is the stage where many companies drop the ball, but it's essential for long-term, sustainable business growth.
Just as a new "crop" releases seeds that enable a farmer to multiply their harvest, each happy client gives you the opportunity to multiply sales through repeat business and referrals.
Here are a few content ideas to continue the trust-building process after the sale:
Invoices (include messaging about other products/ services/ special offers that may interest the recipient)
Customer loyalty program (program introduction letter, loyalty redemption card, coupons, etc.)
Follow-up system (thank you letter, 90-day follow-up letter, one-year anniversary letter)
Referral request (letter that tactfully and effectively asks recipient for introductions to qualified referrals).
Motivate customers to become raving fans to drive repeat business and referrals.
The Bottom Line
How do you develop content for maximum impact? Ask yourself: Where does this project fit into the sales cycle?
Once you've identified the stage, you're better equipped to design a content strategy and craft a story that successfully engages prospects and eventually converts them into profitable customers.
Sean M. Lyden is CEO of Lyden Communications LLC, an Orlando, Fla.-based consulting company that helps entrepreneurs increase sales through storytelling.
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