7 Content Marketing Hacks that are Guaranteed to Fill Your Sales Pipeline
You’re wrapping up with a client, and you need to develop some new relationships fast — but you’ve let your pipeline run dry. So what do you do?
Make cold calls?
Spam your network?
Go to networking events?
Write some articles?
Ugh — All of those tactics take too long. They’re annoying (for you and them) and their short-term effectiveness is questionable.
But don’t fret.
If you’ve been marketing and selling for some time, you’ve probably got enough opportunities hiding in plain sight.
Get focused on these seven strategies, develop a plan, and see how quickly you get back in business.
1. No Pain, No Gain
Why did clients buy from you in the past?
What were they trying to do?
What problems had to be solved?
Are the answers rational or emotional?
It’s important to know the difference because people buy emotionally and justify rationally.
Emotional reasons are elusive because what you usually hear from past clients are their rational reasons. But when you dig, you’ll get at the personal reasons for tackling this problem.
What was their pain?
What happens to them personally if they don’t solve this problem?
If a prospect is not in pain, they’re not going to buy, or even pay attention.
That’s also true of committee-based sales. Each individual that supported the decision had an emotional reason. It affected them personally in some way, otherwise, they wouldn’t have supported the decision.
Use content that speaks most directly to that emotional pain when you need to fill your pipeline quickly so you don’t waste time with the “lookie-loos.”
2. Don’t Reinvent the Wheel
When the sales pipeline runs dry, a marketer’s first instinct is to generate some new content.
Don’t fall into this trap — it takes too much time. Done correctly, it requires planning in conjunction with sales and other customer-facing stakeholders.
But you probably have enough evergreen content that can be resurrected, rewritten, revamped and reused.
Start your research there.
For example, take a webinar that you ran last year, dust it off, and re-run it. No one else will remember that you promoted it a year ago because they didn’t have that problem back then.
But they may now. And if you’re really worried about them remembering that you ran it a year ago, take past attendees out of the mailing.
The same goes for your past evergreen blog posts.
If they’ve already read those posts in the past, refer to it and send them another piece on that topic.
It makes sense to go through your stats and see which ones performed well.
Which topics got the most hits? That’s an indication of pain — you’re hitting on a common problem.
Once you’ve developed your short list of topics, figure out where they fit in the buyer journey and what it tells you about the people clicking on it.
Does it speak to surface pain where you’re educating people to a problem, they didn’t know they had? Or maybe it speaks to rationality instead of emotions?
That probably won’t produce a hand-raiser.
If it does, think through the emotional reasons and see if you can rewrite the post to speak more directly to pain.
That’s more likely to identify people with an immediate problem that are willing to take your call.
3. Pick the Low Hanging Fruit
There are always contacts in your database that have expressed interest in the past but weren’t ready at the time (which is why we do drip campaigns).
If you go through your database and target contacts based on specific topics, it makes it easier to know what follow-up content to send them and you can develop workflows.
For example, for everyone that clicked on Topic X, send them three emails with more useful content on Topic X over a two-week period, and put in a call at the end of the sequence.
In email 1, send them a link to a piece of content and tell them why it’s important.
Because you were interested in TOPIC X in the past, I thought you might also enjoy this article (ALSO ON TOPIC X). It talks about (SPEAK TO A PAIN POINT IT ADDRESSES).
I hope that’s helpful for you.”
4. Develop a sales cookbook (and stick to the recipe)
Now it’s time to prioritize your outreach so you don’t waste time going after cold prospects.
Taking a few hours to think this through will save you many, many hours of work that goes nowhere.
Think of it as a pyramid where at the top is your hottest leads — those are:
- Clients you’ve worked with in the past that may be ready for the next step.
- Clients that will talk to you and provide referrals
- Prospects that were interested a year ago but didn’t act.
The next rung down would be marketing qualified leads. That’s where people have clicked on your content and demonstrated some sort of buying behavior in the past but weren’t ready to talk to a salesperson.
In the middle of the pyramid are leads that have engaged with some content but went dormant.
At the bottom of the pyramid is the coldest of the cold.
These are people that have never engaged with your content and don’t know you exist.
The goal in a short-term prospecting scenario is to identify enough opportunity at the top of the pyramid without ever having to touch the cold leads.
And at some point, in your prospecting sequences, pick up the phone and call them. If it goes to voicemail (and most will) leave a message about the content you’ve sent them. That way, more of them will look for your email — especially if you hit them at the right time with a problem they must solve, and if your email went to a spam filter, they may search it out.
Now you have your cookbook: the ingredients are the content topics, your workflows are your mixing instructions, and the baking is the execution.
5. Prime the Referral Pump
Referrals are always the best place to get new business quickly, so it’s worth your time to go back through past clients that are happy with you, see who they are connected to on Linkedin and ask them for an introduction.
Call them if you have (or can get) their phone number.
When they agree to make an introduction, it helps to craft a sample message for them where they can cut and paste it into the message or make minor modifications instead of coming up with it from scratch.
6. Don’t spray and pray
Filling your pipeline in short order is not about sending out general content to your database. That may result in an increase in general leads, but they’re still too cold.
You want the warm leads. The Glengarry leads!
Short-term pipeline it’s all about market timing, so you want to find those that may be further along in their buying process than they were when they originally engaged with the content.
Finding those gems requires a surgical strike.
Remember TOPIC X?
You’ve now got a workflow to follow up with these leads, so go through your database (CRM), find everyone (in the last year for example) that have been interested in TOPIC X, and run your new workflow on them to see if you can move them towards taking a sales call.
For example, develop a list of everyone in your database (CRM) that has been interested in TOPIC X in the past. Go through them one by one — see what other pieces of content they’ve already read, and follow up with them with more useful content on TOPIC X. Here are some ideas for follow up:
- Invite them to your webinar.
- Tell them about a white paper they haven’t read.
- Tell them about a free program or demo that you have available.
Make sure you indicate your willingness to help them solve a problem (without heavy-handed sales tactics) such as:
“Others that have read our white paper on X have also gotten value out of this whitepaper (INCLUDE LINK). It talks about…
We have significant experience with companies like yours and were able to deliver X results. If I can help you in any way, let me know — I’d be happy to offer my advice.”
7. Measure the right things
Audience building such as increased web traffic, Linkedin connections, and content likes are important for your long-term content strategy, but when it comes to filling your sales pipeline in the short term, these measurements are meaningless.
The only metric that matters is: How many qualified sales conversations you’re having that lead to business?
If you haven’t measured that in the past, now’s the time to start. Track your conversions from marketing qualified lead (people that have engaged with content) to Sales Accepted Lead (Yes, I’m ready to talk to a salesperson).
The industry standard is around five percent conversion, so consistently working this process should translate to five qualified conversations out of every 100 leads.
And please, get in the habit of doing this regularly, every month, and every sale moving forward.
That will lead to continuous improvement in your content strategy over time and hopefully an increase in overall conversions.
Let’s get that sales pipeline filled
We all experience the ups and downs of sales pipelines. We get comfortable and neglect the necessary sales work.
When that happens, we get anxious, worried, and start throwing things against the wall to see what sticks. And worse, it takes everyone’s focus away from the job at hand — getting more business now.
But look at the bright side — you have contacts. You have content. And you have client successes.
The key to filling that pipeline in short order is to get focused and leverage all that good work you’ve done in the past.
And when marketing’s first impulse is to create new content, get them focused on your short-term strategy.
Before you know it, you’ll be breathing a sigh of relief that comes with a full pipeline.