Should I spend the money to hire a content marketing team or an outbound sales team? I’ve asked that question many times over the last couple years when trying to increase sales. We don’t have the money to invest in both, but we know we’ve got to do something to build up our funnel of leads.
I’ve watched friends rally their call centers to “always be closing” with a constant barrage of aggressive pitching and selling. It’s a nasty, stressful way to do business and I’ve always dreaded going down that road. So I’ve taken a step back to consider a kinder, gentler and — cough — more effective approach to sales, marketing, and business development. One thing I have come to realize is that people nowadays really do not want to be sold. So let them come to you…
The Lowdown on Inbound Marketing Leads Vs. Cold Calling Leads
If cold calling, which has become much less effective in the information age, is like marching up to a complete stranger on the street and shoving a flyer in their face while launching into a sales pitch (whether they want to hear it or not), inbound leads are like answering questions from willing participants who showed up to your Q&A. Simply put, inbound leads are more valuable and desirable because the prospect has already expressed an interest in your service or product, has some level of familiarity with your business, and most importantly has given you permission to make your pitch because you have established a relationship by first offering something (information and quality content) that they want and need.
Rather than asking for a sale or delivering information that a person may not be interested in or ready to act on at that particular point in time (as is the case with cold calling), inbound marketers are purveyors of value and information. Give the people what they want, and then give them the time, space and choice to take the next step when they’re ready. On the flip side, when was the last time you reacted with anything but suspicion, fear and loathing when a call from an unrecognized number popped up on your caller ID, much less answered it, eagerly listened to a stranger’s pitch for steak knives (despite the fact that you’re a vegan), and decided to reach for your credit card and buy them anyway, because these steak knives are exactly what you never knew you needed after all? Thanks for calling!
Cold, Warm and Qualified Leads
The best marketing strategies are customized to adequately represent your brand and meet the needs of your customers. With the ascendancy of digital marketing, relying on traditional sales tactics like pursuing cold leads produces a lower and lower ROI because the way that people buy everything, from consumer goods to services and information, has fundamentally changed. Rather than relying on traditional “sales people” to help us find and access what we want, most of us will do our own research first, look to trusted sources for information and wait until making a decision. “Going in for the kill” with a hard sales approach in this environment is much more likely to turn people away. Cold leads are not about the prospect, they’re all about you.
Warm leads are the fruit of “soft” marketing tactics designed to introduce people to your brand by offering interesting and valuable information. A warm lead is someone who has expressed interest in learning more by signing up for your newsletter, following you on social media, or downloading a free e-book or case study. They haven’t necessarily agreed to buy anything now or even in the future, but they are open to what you have to say and have given you permission to tell them more.
Qualified leads are customers who are actively looking for a product or service and are the readiest to buy.
The Long-Term Benefits of Content Marketing and Relationship Building
Content marketing offers the best ROI because unlike traditional marketing and sales techniques, which are designed to accomplish a short-term goal, content marketing campaigns have the potential to continue delivering results long after they have been implemented. The point of content marketing is to consistently build steady user interest and qualified leads consistently over time. Digital marketing is made up of an ever-growing list of moving parts, from SEO strategy to reliable website traffic. Content marketing hits all the nails and delivers compounded results.
In (Good) Content We Trust
Rather than viewing people as targets to be conquered, content marketing is about consistently giving away quality content that provides real value and builds trust and familiarity with your brand. A good content marketing strategy is about relationship building and positioning yourself as an authoritative source of valuable information.
For example, if you were in the market for safe and natural vitamin supplements to improve your general health and well-being, would you be more likely to buy them from a spammy-looking website full of annoying pop up ads and dubious pseudo-scientific claims about overnight weight loss and instant body transformations, or would you be more likely to trust and buy the product from the website that you have been visiting several times a week for the past two years to read their articles and blog posts about the science of healthy living from medical experts affiliated with Harvard and Stanford? In the modern era, digital content marketing is like the Sears or Ikea catalog. You may not necessarily buy something from every issue, but you’re much more likely to keep it on your shelf for later.