The scenario: A few weeks back a friend sent me a link to a short guide on content marketing. I’ll read anything on this subject (I know, it’s sad) so thought I’d take a peak. Annoyingly the content was gated behind a sign up form, but keen to learn everything I can I dutifully entered my details and downloaded the guide. The content was OK, worth a read, but to be honest I forgot about it pretty quickly. Then last week the phone rang. A sales person had noticed that I’d downloaded their free guide – would I like a demo of their marketing software?
My response: Er…no! Just because I’d downloaded their content didn’t make me a lead. I wasn’t interested in their product, just the content. I’m not in the market to purchase marketing software; I didn’t even remember the company name! And I was pretty annoyed to get a cold call from someone on the back of downloading stuff. I was busy; I didn’t know who they were; NOT interested! SLAM.
What I did next: This riled me enough to tweet about it – a quick 140 character rant about the experience. It obviously hit a nerve with a few people.
The burning question: Is it right for your sales team to follow up your content marketing efforts? Isn’t this a fair exchange? We invest all this time and effort and money in content BECAUSE WE WANT TO SELL PEOPLE STUFF. Surely it’s right that we go after the ones who have downloaded it…isn’t it? Or perhaps there is a better way?
Here’s what I think.
- If you focus your marketing efforts around creating and sharing valuable content, never ever cold call. It is the ultimate in interruption marketing and in no way congruent with the customer-centred spirit of your marketing approach. Like me, your customers will spot the change in tone, and they’re fed up with that type of intrusion. Cold call on the back of a piece of generously shared content and you risk killing any nascent relationship with your brand.
- If you really want to gate your stuff only do so for your most valuable content. For me that is professionally written e-books, research, whitepapers and guides (and even for these, after episodes like this one and with an increasingly overburdened inbox, I’m getting more reticent to hand over my details).
- If you are going to follow up, be transparent and upfront about what you intend to do from the start. If you intend to add them automatically to your mailing list or follow up by email then say so, BEFORE the visitor submits their details.
- Know that not everyone who downloads your content will be your ideal customer. For those who leave their details you need some way of carefully segmenting this list based on a profile of your dream customer. Get your sales team to approach these people respectfully. Don’t bombard them with product or service offers – you have to earn the right to sell. Prove you have their best interests at heart. Build relationships. Court them with more valuable content until they are ready to buy.
In summary, if you want to build trusted relationships with your customers don’t mix old and new business development approaches. Respect for your clients has to be at the heart of your marketing AND sales activity. Success from your valuable content relies on a joined up, principled approach to selling.
Cynical marketing and pushy selling are dead. There definitely is a better way.
As ever, I’d really welcome your views. Hope this opens up some lively debate.