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Connecting Content to Sales: Missing Links and Creative Fixes


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Andy Crestodina: Welcome everybody to another SEMrush webinar. My name is Andy Crestodina and I'm thrilled to be the host. This is a program where we explore topics related to marketing. 

We have a global audience, we have a global panel. I honestly think this is one of the best topics because leads sometimes just go into a black hole, marketers just talk to themselves, salespeople are waiting for the phone to ring. 

What we're going to do today is to bridge the gap between sales and marketing and we've got two absolute experts on this topic. I'm going to give a very brief introduction. 

We're going to get a mini-presentation here. Our format's about a 15-minute thing from our presenter, we've got Jonathan Aufray, who's going to go into the connection, bridging the gap between sales and marketing. And he's the perfect guy to talk to about this because he's the Co-founder, he's the CEO of Growth Hackers.

Jonathan's going to tell us about himself in one second, but let me also introduce my friend Joel Klettke. Joel is a conversion copywriter who has mastered the art of creating high converting copy and lately is focused on a specific format; case studies, which we'll hear more about in a minute. Joel and I are going to chime in and maybe share some of our own tips after Jonathan goes through his best insights for us. 

Jonathan, how can you make us better at this? 

Jonathan Aufray: Oh, let's start, I think I'm going to share my screen. I like my slides to go straight to the points, they're not very complicated to understand. No sales, no business: that's a simple thing. 

A lot of entrepreneurs or especially the marketers...they want to create content but they don't think about the sales aspects. They all think about getting leads or making revenue and everything.

Any business, no matter in which industry you are, you need to make sales and when I tell that to marketers, they will tell me, "Oh, yeah, but you can raise money, you can raise money, you can raise millions you don't need to make sales." 

At some point, those investors will tell you, "Yeah, now I want some high return on those investments." At some point, you will have to make money. As I said, marketing and sales go together, have to work together to make money.

Using the Sales Funnel to Inform Content Creation

First is what kind of content you want to create before we go to sales. There are so many kinds of content. There's blogging, there are case studies as Joel says. Case studies, I kind of agree with Joel that case studies could be, it's more sales-focused. It's not at the top of the funnel, is at the bottom of the funnel, so when you want to convert. 

What kind of content and when to create it; that's what sales decide. Sales, you need to understand the funnel of sales because there are many different kinds of steps you have to go through.

In the beginning, people don't know about your products or your services. You have to create, kind of, general content to attract your prospect to your content. Then you have to educate them a bit. 

Then you get your leads, then you get qualified leads and all this, then you sell and then you try to get your way forward. And all this part of the funnel needs different kinds of content. In my opinion, the sales need to tell you what kind of content you want to be created and then marketing can create. 

Let's say sales tell you, "Okay, I've got so many leads, but now I have to close them. Joel, prepare me some case studies."  Or they tell you, "Oh, I know how to close this. I have some case studies, I know how to close a lead. Problem is, I don't get any leads. Maybe create some content to grab those leads."

Content Ideation: Researching People’s Problems

Once you know what kind of content to create, what part of the funnel you want to create, the marketing team and the sales team need to find ideas what kind of content you want to create. 

First, you put yourself in your prospect or your lead's shoes or you can create a bio/persona. What do they ask themselves every day? What are their problems? What solution are they looking for? Then you go to Quora. 

Yeah, Quora, type your keywords, type your big keywords there, you will find dozens of questions. If you find dozens of questions, it means you find dozens of problems to solve. Then Google, Yahoo, Bing Related Searches. This is a great strategy. This is, not many people do it.

You type your keywords on your Google search bar and then you go at the bottom, it’s got related search, you will find questions there. What people search really. If you even type this video to search, then you go down again, you find related search, things you search. You will find those ideas of contents. Then you've got Ubersuggest. Ubersuggest is, I'm sure you know Neil Patel.

He created this tool where you type your keywords, it would give you like dozens of ideas of content. Then you find, you go to BuzzSumo or Right Relevance, you type your keywords and you find all the popular content online. If it's popular content, it can give you some ideas. 

And then something that people don't do much and that I don't understand why, check what your competitors, what kind of content they create. If you do those six things, I'm telling you you've got like 50 ideas within an hour. 

Andy Crestodina: I totally agree. And by the way, our host of this webinar, SEMrush, is, of course, amazing for that competitive analysis report. Put it in your competitor's domain and see what all their top-performing keywords are and then ask yourself if you've answered those same questions on your side. Even if you don't have a chance of ranking for that phrase, it's sales content. 

One last, an idea, Joel, you might like this. If you search, if you know your buyer's job title, let's say they're mechanical engineers or compliance officers, if you search for “day in the life of compliance officer”, you may find content that describes what the job is like for your audience, it could give you ideas. 

Five Steps to Content Creation

Jonathan Aufray: Very interesting. And now that you have all your content ideas, it's time to create the content. And for content, it's in five steps. From ideas, the sales and the marketing team have to collaborate with each other, find a list of 50 ideas and prioritize them. We're like, "Okay, those five ideas or 10 ideas are the best, let's create content on those." 

Once you've got your to-do list of let's say top 10, then the marketing team will start to work on it. And then once a marketing team created the content, so you send it to the sales team, you say, "Okay, here's a piece of content I created for you, tell me what you think." And then the sales team will say, "Okay, I would like to add that maybe a case study to it, maybe a call to action to it.”

The goal is to, at this point is to collaborate with each other, the sales team and the marketing team to find kind of like to perfect content or content that is let's say shareable on social media. Also, that's good for marketing but that can be used as a sales tool. 

Once both the marketing team and the sales team agree on the content, then we can post it. Personally I think many star entrepreneurs use Trello. I use Trello as well. I won't be very original. I use Trello as well, I think it's super. I love it because it's very simple to use.

Now I want just to give one tip. One tip because I work with many businesses that are small and they will tell me, "But I don't have a marketing team, I don't have a sales team." If that's the case, I always recommend starting with the long-form blog post, no matter what you want to do. 

Why? Because in my opinion, you can easily reuse and repurpose that content. You can start with a long-form blog post and you can, with a graphic designer, you can share that blog post to an infographic. You can have maybe it as long-form blog posts, you could take a quote from the blog post and share it on social media. You can create an eBook, you can create so many things from a long-form blog post.

You always have to analyze results to track your data, to see what works, to see what doesn't work obviously. I would say don't go too crazy with 20 analytics tools. Google Analytics tool or CRM would be enough to start with. My favorite kind of data is traffic, leads, sales, cost per lead, cost per sales. Those are very important kinds of data you want to analyze. 

Andy Crestodina: Yeah. I mean, if you don't have a CRM set up people, press the pause button, open a tab, go buy a CRM and then come back and play. Okay. Jonathan, that was awesome. You really covered way more than I thought you would. Jonathan said the case studies are more middle to bottom of the funnel. What do you think of this? 

Case Studies at Different Stages of the Funnel

Joel Klettke: Yeah, so there's so much in this that I completely agree with. I love the content ideas and I think if there's one thing that I would have added to that list that is so massively overlooked, it's just talking to people. Talk to a real person and ask them those questions. 

I agree in terms of that historically and in most cases, case studies have been used at bottom of the funnel and that's how a lot of people think about them. That's something that I'm trying to change because case studies can be used across the entire funnel. 

They can be just as effective as a lead magnet or a lead generation tool as they can be a closer, and I'll give some context of that. The job of a case study is not just to show people how you solved the problem, but to show people that you understand that a problem even exists. For people where they're looking for a result, or maybe they only understand in their current state as a lead, "Hey, I've got a pain, I've got an issue." They might not even be far down enough to know that a solution for that exists. 

A well-placed case study and a well-titled case study can show those people, "Hey, we get your pain. We've actually solved that pain before." And it can start them down that funnel.

Using the Sales Funnel to Repurpose Content

As you repurpose, think about it. If your big, long-form content is top of the funnel, if you're speaking to the pain, maybe you're repurposing or maybe your offshoot should be that funnel. And I think that's the way to think about, it is the big piece you build, that's like the cornerstone of that funnel but the stuff you spin off, for example, a checklist, that's a higher intended piece in a blog post.

Someone who comes in who's just transactionally looking for information, they'll just read the posts. They might go on their merry way. If I'm confronted with, "Oh hey, that problem you have, that thing this piece is about, here's a checklist so you can go do that." Someone who gets that, they put up their hand a little bit more than someone who's just read, because that person has actively identified, "Hey, I'm working on solving that right now." Don't just focus on one piece and wonder where your sales are. Look at the big picture too. 

Andy Crestodina: I like that. Do a checklist.

Joel Klettke: You can do social images and social sharing. You can do a checklist, so action items. A process doc, I've seen a printable like process maps. 

You can tie in those case studies, make it part of what you've already got in play and going on there. You can turn these into smaller slide decks. One of the things that still is possible is to embed a slide deck into Twitter and take up a bunch of visual real estate. 

Promote that post and now you've got this big visual real estate where you've got like a mini snippet of the piece you've got. You can turn that into a guest post, you can turn that into a series of different posts. There's myriad ways to use, yeah, one really great asset. 

Andy Crestodina: Well, I like you mentioned slide deck because a lot of what sales content is, is presentations. A lot of salespeople need decks. They need slideshows, they need PowerPoint. You should never miss the chance to publish something in marketing or to invest in a diagram for example, and not automatically, almost automatically shoot that over to the sales director or just meet in, jump into a sales meeting and then ask if this stuff would be useful.

Writing a Good Case Study

Joel Klettke: And I just saw there is a question in the side, Joseph, “what's the formula of writing a case study?” Is it as simple as answering the who, what, when, where, why and how? I think a lot of people think case studies are like live and die. It's like yeah, simple, prompt solution, results, bang, bang, bang, done. 

The right way to go about is to start with intent and start with the strategy. Yes, the who, what, when, where, why and how are all important. 

Before you even get to that point, you want to identify, hey, who are we trying to sell to? What are we trying to sell them? And what pain points do they have that we can speak to? What outcomes do they want that we can highlight? 

Before you even start phoning people up or going through client base, so trying to seek answers, you need to define what types of stories do we need to tell to what types of people? What's their role? What's their industry? What awareness level are they at? And then that shapes how you can tell it. 

I'm still a big fan of the traditional problem solution results. There's a lot more nuance we can go into in terms of the actual production of that. The last thing I'll say on that is the difference between just a testimonial and the full-blown case study and where I think a lot of companies get case studies themselves wrong, is you want the customer leading that narrative, not you. It's a customer success story, not a “you success story”. 

You need to have their quotes, their narrative, driving that along and let them be the ones filling in the detail versus you just saying that we did this and then we did this and then we did this. They're responsible for explaining why that was valuable, how that felt, injecting that human emotion in that story. 

The Value of Listening to People’s Pain Points

Andy Crestodina: Yeah. That's great. You said two things that make me want to share a quick example. You mentioned listening to people and you mentioned pain points. Let's see if this works. I'm going to click to share a screen. 

Okay. This is a content idea that's totally based on listening. I do sales calls and I talk to people and we build websites. I'm frequently talking to people who are angry about their web designers. 

What happens when I take these calls, what I decided to do once is to of course empathize, but then also I wrote down every complaint I heard about the web design company for a year. I had the notebook by my phone and wrote down every complaint that everyone had told me. This was years ago, about every web design company that I heard. I put all those into a Google doc, I'm going to write a piece of content. I write it up, 27 complaints about web design companies. 

Not surprising, it ranks number one for web design complaints. We got an SEO audience here. It's had 28,000 visitors over the years, about a hundred people a week read that article about web design complaints. Amazingly, it's a weird piece of content because very low shares, but a huge number of comments. 

Content Ideation from Sales and Marketing Collaborating

Andy Crestodina: Jonathan, how can salespeople and marketing people collaborate more to get those ideas flowing back and forth and write good content? Do you know of any tricks to speed up that flow of content needs from sales to marketing? I mean, how do you, I guess just in general. I mean, how do we close that gap?

Listening on sales calls or get in the car with them and like go to the meeting sit in the background or I don't know.

Jonathan Aufray: Yeah... stay in the same office for two days together, stay together, based together or something like that or go to see the clients together maybe. Yeah, It's like, definitely work together more, so the marketers understand what are the issues with salespeople face every day. I guess, yeah. 

Joel Klettke: We want to ask good questions and it doesn't matter if we're asking those good questions internally or externally, we want to ask really smart qualitative questions.. That's what this whole slide deck is all about and what questions specifically to ask of sales. 

We want to record their responses, we want to analyze those responses looking for trends and themes and patterns. We're looking for commonalities. We're not just looking at what gets asked, but how it gets asked, how frequently it gets asked. Then we're going to take that knowledge and we're going to deploy it. 

I just want to highlight some of the questions that I would be asking as a conversion copywriter. That translates really nicely into content marketing. When you're talking to sales, the first question that you kind of section you want to press to do, is who do you wind up actually talking to? 

If you're dealing with B2B, what's the person's role and what's the company size and what's their knowledge level coming in? How much do they know the technical side of your business? The process side of your business, how much are you explaining and what are you explaining? You want to learn how much they know at the point of contact. 

Because depending on the industry or who you're working with, sales is getting asked different things that content marketing might even be aware of. And when you know that gap, as I kind of illustrate in that past example, you can help bridge it preemptively.

You want to discover kind of best-fit personas and tailor the copy to suit. And then the next thing you want to ask a salesperson is, "Hey, what do you get asked all the time? What question?" I love to phrase it this way. "What question do you wish you never had to answer again?" 

What this is going to let you do is kind of gauge the awareness level of the people coming in. Not just their knowledge level, but how far along are they. Are they asking comparative questions between your business and another business? Are they solely focused on price and what the deal is? Are they looking to understand how your solution actually works? When you know what level of awareness they're at, that helps you tailor your content and spot gaps in your current funnel. 

The next question I really would like to ask is, what objections do you hit most often? Let's say somebody is interested, they're a qualified lead, but then something goes off, they're not quite sure. 

When we find out what objections that people have, we can identify, what anxieties and pain points do they have? What fears, what are those underlying fears? 

Andy Crestodina: Pause on that. Not everyone knows this, but you did wonders for the HubSpot conversion rates. Part of, I remember you explaining that it was about the priorities. Do the priorities affect the flow of the page or the structure of the content or the mix of social promotion? 

Joel Klettke: Yeah, Andy, when we knew how important a particular pain was, a particular benefit was, we could prioritize the structure of the page to address those things first. Or in some cases if we had kind of buried the lead with something, maybe we didn't feel as important but turned out to be massively important for a lead, then we could unbury it and make it prominent. 

Using the Language of Your Audience

Andy Crestodina: I'm going to say, just to kind of really highlight this, you are going to have a lot of problems in both sales and marketing if you don't know the top questions and objections of your audience and their relative priority. Something else you said though, Joel, I like to, maybe you're going to get to this, you were using the language of the audience, right? 

Joel Klettke: One thing it's good to ask your sales team or look in your own inbox for is the aha moments. Maybe it's a live demo, maybe it's a phone call, maybe it's an in-person conversation, but at some point I guarantee you, you notice something change in a good lead though. The lights come on and they kind of start to get it. 

You want to isolate that so you can recreate it. You can recreate those points of clarity in your content, you can offer that. You want to steal from the salesperson or yourself...the best analogies and metaphors that create those moments and then recreate that in your content. 

And then the last thing that you want to ask sales or looking at your own process or look at your own emails for is what happens next. Let's assume that you've sold that person, especially in B2B. They're not the final decision maker. Sometimes they've just been sent on a fact-finding mission. 

Learning, okay, not just for that person, but who else do I need to convince? What's that person's role? What's that person's pain and objections? What benefits are they looking for? Going beyond just the immediate, because it's deceiving to just look at, "Oh, we got so much traffic, this piece must be a real banger for us." 

Some of the best converting pieces of content I know get seen only by a handful of people per year but those people are so important to the process that it makes all the difference. 

Jonathan Aufray: Definitely. I really love this idea, Joel, what you said about; talk the way your audience talks. 

Andy Crestodina: They used to say in pay per click to use the words from the campaign in the landing page because your audience is looking to follow the information sent. The visitor is like a dog following a trail. And if you don't use the same words, they feel like they lost the trail. 

I mean, basically here's the greatest sales trick in the world: listen to what your audience says and repeat it back to them in your own words. If you can summarize their problem in just a couple of words, they're like, "Oh, this person totally gets me." That's the feeling you're trying to give them. 

Joel Klettke: That's the feeling you want to create in your content marketing is that feeling of familiarity. When you can create that with your content, to me that's what bridges the gap between content and sales because you're no longer thinking just in terms of a keyword or a ranking. Now you're thinking about that human connection. The keywords, the rankings, they're important, don't get me wrong. You can't convert if you can't show up.

Once you start that conversation, you will set yourself apart. When you can demonstrate that you understand that person on a human level in a way that goes beyond groupings of keywords and phrases and that type of thing.

Final Tips on Connecting Content Marketing to Sales

Andy Crestodina: Hey guys, we're coming down to it, we've got just minutes left. Let's start with Jonathan. Jonathan, final thoughts, any last tips? 

Jonathan Aufray: Yeah. You always have to release the benefits or you have to show companies or people what the problem you are fixing. People never buy a product for the features, they don't care about the features. They don't even know how to use them; what they want is fix, like resolve a problem. 

If you can show them the benefits of a product or service that's what they will buy. I always say, don't talk about the features, talk about the benefits. Like I see startups every day is like, "Oh yeah, we're going to add this feature or this feature, let's talk about that new feature." I'm like, "But what does it do? What is the problem you are fixing?"

Andy Crestodina: Awesome. Joel, final thoughts. Put a bow on it.

Joel Klettke: I'd say the single most important thing you can do is, it's good to live in the data world and there's so much value in keyword research and there's so much value in having tools that show you search volume and help you ascertain intent. There's so much value there, but don't stop there. Once you've got that, let that inform your conversations and have conversations, that's the bow I would put on it. 

Whether it's between departments, whether it's with existing customers, whether it's with incoming leads, you can never go wrong. It will never be time wasted to have a conversation, record that conversation, analyze a bunch of those conversations and take what you learned back to your content, back to your copy, back to your sales process, back to your marketing. 

We're in a human-driven business, SEO marketing, sales, advertising at the core, our goal is to get humans to take an action and we can't do that without talking to those people. Don't take people out of your processes the way I'd button it up. 

Andy Crestodina: Yeah. If your brand was a restaurant, are the marketers in the kitchen or are they in the dining room? The salespeople are in the dining room, so get closer to them, be a front of the house marketer and listen, that's an awesome tip. 

Understand what questions they're asking, what their objections are, the relative priority of those questions, the language they use to answer those, to ask those questions, publish something big, break up into some stuff that's small. 

Hey guys, thanks for joining us, we're going to end this webinar on time. Find Joel and Jonathan anywhere they could, casestudybuddy.com for Joel or where can they find you? 

Joel Klettke: Yeah. If you want to chat, Twitter @JoelKlettke, I respond to everybody as often as I can and at casestudybuddy.com where you can learn more about the customers we have and the way we help tackle those problems. 

Andy Crestodina: And Jonathan, where can we find you at? 

Jonathan Aufray: If you have to talk to me, LinkedIn is better, type my name, you'll find me. 

Andy Crestodina: And me too, find me on LinkedIn, ask me anything. We will be posting a transcript of this. We will be sharing the slides, guys let's get those over to SEMrush and if there's a past one that's relevant to this, it's the Andrew Davis, when we talked about those moments in guiding people through that funnel, toward the sale and for future webinars, guys, keep an eye out. 

Thank you all for coming, thanks to Joel, thanks, Jonathan. Thanks to all the attendees and for our host, SEMrush. See you guys next time.

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