How do you sell to a client who has already decided what he wants to buy and where? That’s the conundrum that more and more businesses face today.
In a study by Google and CEB, customers reported being nearly 60 percent through the sales process before engaging a sales rep, regardless of price point.
People search the Internet for reliable, unbiased information and use social media to get advice from friends and colleagues, says Dennis Crupi, director of creative services, Agency Ingram Micro.
Create a Powerful Draw
So how do you sell to this new category of client? Craft a message designed for them, including the information that they’re looking for, and place it where they are looking.
“In this new sales and marketing model, we need to be where the buyers are doing their homework,” says Crupi.
“Technology companies and solution providers need to devise content that will help executives and line-of-business leaders,” says Jennifer Anaya, vice president, Agency Ingram Micro. The goal of content marketing is to educate all these stakeholders about what technology can do for them, and then tie that back to the solution provider as the trusted advisor. “It’s an educational process all the way through the sales cycle,” she says. “The right content can help lead that company down a path so that when the solution provider talks with them, they are ready for a sales conversation.”
Case in Point
Ingram Micro has been publishing content through ingrammicroadvisor.com for about 18 months, and with stellar results, says Crupi. The site is built on a marketing automation platform that distributes information via email, blogs, subscriptions and social media. It has not only been very effective, but also has changed the dialogue at Ingram Micro among sales, marketing and technical staff . “They are all getting the same good, relevant content at the same time,” Crupi explains, “which is prompting more productive conversations.”
Agency Ingram Micro also offers content marketing creation and tools to solution providers. It helps solution providers tell a concise, relevant story that addresses the pain points of potential buyers, and provides a digital marketing automation platform that delivers that story precisely, consistently and persistently. The platform, which is usually integrated with the solution provider's CRM system, also feeds useful data about who is consuming the content back to the solution provider. "It turns your website into the best top-of-the-funnel lead generator," says Crupi.
This is all very new for solution providers. According to a study by Digital Capital Advisors, only 5 percent of small, and 10 percent of midsize, businesses use marketing automation platforms. Nevertheless, Agency Ingram Micro already is working with several solution providers.
RKON is one of them. The Chicago-based firm decided to target a specific niche for its services: privately funded, mid-cap companies that are growing so fast their IT departments are having a hard time keeping up. It wanted to market directly to the companies' C-suite executives and their private investors because they, not IT, hold the purse strings. "All too often, IT is a limiting factor in these companies' growth, and it gets brought to the board for discussion," says Jeff Mullarkey, CEO, RKON.
RKON needed to create a message to appeal to executives and private equity investors, and then publish it through media channels that would reach them. After interviewing several agencies, RKON hired Agency Ingram Micro.
Ingram Micro took RKON through a discovery process, helping it define its new target market and identify the value it provided that market, says Mullarkey. "A few months ago, I couldn't explain what we did in a half-hour," he says. Now, he can. "Working with Agency Ingram Micro has transformed my thinking and our company."
Grow Your Business With Content
Over the next two years, more solution providers will adopt a content marketing strategy and an automated platform to implement that strategy, Crupi asserts.
"The early rumblings of adoption have started," he says. Doing so, however, will require a solid foundation. An automated content marketing platform works best for solution providers who are growing quickly, have a well-defined value proposition and brand, and have strong businesses and sales processes already in place, says Crupi.
What to Look for in a Marketing Automation Platform
- Streamlined, repeatable processes. Marketing automation takes a lot of effort to set up, but once it’s configured, the ability to clone existing programs can help you save time and accomplish your goals with fewer resources.
- Systems that can scale. As your company grows and changes, and your demand-generation efforts become more complex, you need a scalable way to move leads through the sales process across multiple channels.
- Great customer support. Look for platforms with high customer support ratings and large, engaged communities of customers. This can help you brainstorm through a technical or creative challenge.
- Robust reporting and analytics. This ability to analyze performance is critical. Make sure that you can really measure and prove the ROI of your marketing efforts without spending hours cobbling data together in spreadsheets. The analytics should be flexible and easy to use, so everyone on your team can optimize their efforts.
- A large resource library. Look for platforms with constantly updated and comprehensive best practices, email and landing page templates, and program examples to get you up and running quickly. The marketing landscape is constantly changing, and a good automation provider should have a strong track record of innovating and leading.
Solution providers need to be willing and able to embrace a new strategy, and to invest in the time and resources required to support it. Even if you hire an agency to help you implement a content marketing strategy, you need a dedicated person within your company to work with the agency.
It's also important to remember that the success of your content marketing strategy depends as much on the quality of the content as on the technology that delivers it.
"Solution providers tend to get excited about the tool and the platform, but forget that they have to have the right message," says Anaya. "The tool is not going to do anything for them if the right content isn't being delivered through it."
Finally, be open to new ways of telling your story. If you are trying to appeal to an executive audience, for example, you may even have to step back and rewrite your story, changing it from one about technology to one about business strategy. "You need to tell your story in a clean, straightforward way that resonates with the people to whom you are selling," she says.
For more information on Agency Ingram Micro's content marketing services, contact Brandon Cammell at firstname.lastname@example.org.