If content is king, content selling is the castle. And what’s a king without a castle?
Informative, useful and engaging content is the bedrock of any good marketing strategy; you know that already.
But it’s only one piece of the puzzle.
In today’s digital landscape, consumers are informed, empowered and value authenticity.
According to GWI’s 2021 Zeitgeist Report, 48% of social media users want brands to be more authentic.
The same number of users want to see more content that helps people. 55% of users prefer funny, lighthearted content and 47% want more inspirational content.
If you want leads to buy what you’re selling, you have to earn their attention and add value to their lives.
Enterprises employ various strategies to this end. All too often, though, they ignore the glorious hippo in the room: content.
We’re talking about the kind of content that transforms a ten-a-penny peddler into an esteemed advisor in the eyes of your prospects.
Get it right, and they’ll convert naturally.
How? By leveraging high-quality content in the proper context and at the right time in the buyer’s journey.
There’s a lot to unpack, so here’s what you’ll find in this ultimate guide:
- Expert tips on creating content that sells
- Proven content selling strategies
- Real-life examples of success
Ready to turn your kingdom into a money-making machine? Let’s get cracking.
Content Marketing vs Content Selling
Before we get to the crux of content selling, let’s go over some basics.
Content marketing focuses on the wider target market to bring leads into the sales funnel. It’s tailored to “cold” audiences who may or may not already know about your brand.
Marketing content is about speaking to customer pain points and your core values, thus attracting leads.
Remember, people tend to share content that resonates with them, not content that talks about how great your company is.
Content selling involves a more direct and personalised approach. It’s geared toward those already in the sales funnel (albeit at the very top).
Sales content is usually designed for “warm” or “lukewarm” prospects but also includes upselling to existing customers.
It’s about convincing them that your products or services address their pain points, your brand aligns with their values and that your company is the right fit.
In short, content marketing is a long-term strategy showcasing your brand, values, uniqueness and voice.
Content selling shows customers why they should choose you over your competitors while making their buying decisions easier.
Nurturing leads and converting them into customers are two very different things, but the silos between marketing and sales are crumbling.
The sales rep can now leverage the marketer’s toolbox, using content to do more than get those leads through the door. In fact, it’s become essential, especially considering that:
82% of customers only buy from trusted brands (Klaviyo)
99% of customers say companies must improve their trustworthiness (Salesforce)
Interaction experience has the second-biggest impact on customer loyalty after product quality (Gartner)
Most customers find supporting content (77%) and product information (75%) challenging to find (Bloomreach)
More than 50% of businesses fail to provide supporting content like how-tos and comparison tools (Bloomreach)
Content selling isn’t a standalone strategy. Instead, it enhances your overall sales and marketing game plans. Here’s why you can’t do without it.
Why Content Selling is Non-Negotiable
Post-pandemic, consumer behaviours have changed, digital transformation has accelerated and business models have shifted.
But one universal truth remains: people support brands they trust.
Prospects must truly resonate with the problem your product or service solves before they become customers. That’s why content directly related to the buyer’s needs is so important.
When perceived as a trusted advisor (rather than a pushy peddler), a sales rep has more influence over their leads.
Still, reps are busy people that can’t be everywhere at once. How do they become trusted advisors?
By no longer ignoring the hippo in the room.
Content is a powerful tool. When leveraged correctly, it can help move buyers along their customer journey and:
Keep leads engaged: Content selling piques your leads’ interests and holds their attention with periodic, valuable and captivating information. These reminders make it easier for them to move to a close organically.
Overcome objections early on: A good sales rep knows what kind of objections tend to surface about their products or services. Content selling allows you to address any quibbles and quash doubt before it arises.
Assist non-decision makers: Non-decision-making leads are common. Your content selling efforts can make it easier for them to pass the right information up the chain of command to close a sale.
Enhance upselling and cross-selling efforts: Content selling can also show existing customers how your other products or services can better serve their needs or address entirely different pain points.
Creating Content That Sells: The Fundamentals
Creating content that sells and selling with content aren’t the same things. You need a firm grasp on the former to get the latter right.
Whether your content falls under marketing or sales, always strive for copy (or media) that converts.
Here are five fundamentals to bear in mind:
1. Above All, the Audience
Regardless of industry, the best online content has a common theme: it’s valuable, freely dispersed and genuinely helps an audience, a community or the world at large.
So share your knowledge.
Show your audience that you’re not just after their money. You’re in it for the long haul, and you’re here to bring real, direct and tangible value to their lives.
Two things happen when you adopt this approach.
Firstly, unique content stands out among the thousands of copy-pasted articles, videos and infographics. It can significantly impact a lead’s buying decision.
Secondly, people love sharing high-quality content, which, in turn, ranks higher on search engines and attracts more leads.
2. Research, Research, Research
Research leads to a greater understanding of your targeted segments. Do a deep dive to gain consumer insights your competitors don’t know about.
Dare to be unconventional. Data analytics are crucial but don’t discount the importance of social listening, either. Think comment sections, forums, and groups.
Online tools like Social Mention, Facebook Audience Insights and Google Trends are also beneficial.
Propose practical solutions to problems you’ve identified in your research. When you meet such a need, the audience will eat it up time and time again.
Helpful content never gets old.
Research also serves another purpose. Non-competitive and credible material reinforces your position as an industry leader.
Third-party white papers, statistics, studies and ebooks can enrich your content and drive a point home.
3. Native Content isn’t a Niche
Social media platforms are all about engagement and sharing. When used properly, they’re powerful marketing tools.
You can’t afford to favor one platform over another.
One post across all platforms doesn’t cut it, either. Target audiences vary, expectations differ and the posting options are all unique.
That’s where native content comes in. According to Insider Intelligence, display advertising spend reached $118.72 billion (£97.51 billion) in 2021.
Native ads encompassed 62.4% of this amount, estimated to grow by 14.9% in 2022.
Researchers see most of this spending going to native ads for social media platforms and mobile devices.
Content that’s natural to a platform blends in seamlessly, feels more authentic, and has a higher chance of being shared.
It’s unobtrusive as long as it’s relevant and appealing.
4. Diversify and Universalise
Different content formats exist for a reason. Each one garners a specific degree of engagement and caters to a unique preference.
Even the most well-defined target audience has variations.
People can’t read while driving, but they can listen to a podcast. Similarly, watching a video may be disruptive at the office, so a blog might be more convenient.
By diversifying your content, you’ll universalize it. Make it available to all with enough options to keep engagement consistent.
5. Outbound is In
Content strategies often stem from a marketer’s perspective. Assets are designed to attract and engage prospects via inbound channels, which is vital for lead generation.
But that’s only useful at the top of the sales funnel.
Content that sells works for the entire sales cycle.
Create messages or concepts tailored to each step of a prospect’s buying journey.
Consult your sales team to develop a content strategy that supports their efforts and applies to outbound channels too.
Selling With Content: 4 Proven Strategies
Effective content selling enables prospects to move down the sales funnel independently.
It requires high-quality content, a motivated sales team and a deep understanding of what truly resonates with your leads.
So how do you get your salesforce on board while equipping them with the right tools and content to drive conversions?
Here are four proven content selling strategies with real-life success stories and examples:
1. Master Persuasion With Powerful Presell Pages
A presell page is the bridge between hard-selling content (like an ad) and a sale. It’s a standalone landing page dedicated to a targeted audience for a specific offer or product.
Using a combination of copy, images and videos, presell pages get prospects to buy what you’re selling before you’ve sold it.
They’re powerful tools ideal for pre-launch campaigns, special sales, product line promotions and even individual products.
A lead-converting presell page has the following elements:
A powerful headline: Strive for a short, catchy heading that matches your brand’s tone and gets the point across. Use power words.
Audience-specific content: Who are you targeting, what are their preferences and how are you meeting their needs? An effective presell page addresses these aspects through distinctive imagery, bite-sized videos and short, snappy copy.
Value-boosting benefits: Showcase your USP through comparison charts, interactive media, or even with an impactful one-liner.
Social proof: Use testimonials, reviews, ratings and customers’ brand logos. They speak to your authority and product or service quality.
A compelling CTA: A simple and direct call to action strengthens your message and drives intent.
A soft-sell approach: Don’t be too pushy or overly promotional. The goal is to educate visitors—not pressure them into making a purchase.
Sounds like a tall order, right? In reality, presell pages are easy to construct. Let’s look at some examples.
Example 1: Compare My Move
The search term “removal company london” brings up Compare My Move as the top paid ad. Do you notice the company’s 4.9-star rating right off the bat? Social proof: Check.
Click it, and immediately you’ll see the bold headline, the benefit of saving up to 70% and a clear CTA. This presell page is also audience-specific.
It addresses the pain points of finding fully insured companies validated by real reviews.
Example 2: Audible
Here’s the first ad result when you type “audiobooks” into your search bar:
Note the soft-selling non-committal tone. Audible’s presell page has a striking headline and an all-encompassing subheading leading up to the CTA.
It’s simple yet effective, and if you’re not ready to sign up, keep scrolling.
You’ll see the benefits of membership and another CTA followed by categories like Best Sellers, Trending Titles and Popular Podcasts. Visual elements play a decisive role here.
Tailor-made content doesn’t always mean lengthy articles and blogs. Let’s look at another channel where multimedia materials and snappy captions are king: social media.
2. Supercharge Your Salesforce With Social Selling
According to DataReportal’s July 2022 Global State of Digital Report, 59% of the global population are active social media users. That’s 4.7 billion people.
Facebook ads alone can reach up to 43.1% of all internet users.
. (DataReportal, 2022)
By leveraging social media networks, companies can gain insights, attract leads, enhance brand awareness and fortify customer relationships.
LinkedIn even introduced a Social Selling Index where it says more than 50% of high scorers are more likely to reach sales targets.
It also says 78% of social sellers do better than their colleagues who don’t use social media.
Content plays a massive role in these marketing aspects, but it can also shorten the sales cycle and drive conversions.
A February 2022 study published in the Journal of Industrial Marketing Management empirically found that social selling drives sales outcome performance.
The authors highlight thought leadership as a key factor. In other words, the systematic sharing of valuable content on social media positions salespeople as trusted advisors.
This, in turn, significantly influences customer acquisitions. The study also noted the importance of providing the salesforce with a portfolio of helpful content.
Another 2022 study found a significant relationship between social media marketing and purchase intention, with brand image as a mediator.
So, how do you leverage content to generate sales via social media? The answer could fill up pages, but we’ll leave you with a few pro tips:
Use User-Generated Content (UGC)
79% of consumers believe UGC impacts their buying decisions, compared to only 13% that say branded content does the same. (Stackla, 2018).
Authenticity resonates, and there’s nothing more authentic than content created by real people with a real love for your products or services.
It gets prospects thinking about how your offering can add value to their lives while building trust and credibility.
Take a page from GoPro’s book and share UGC as part of a daily or weekly campaign. See how the caption includes a short and sweet special offer? It’s direct but not overly “salesy”.
Effective communication in the age of information overload requires easily-digestible, bite-sized content that’s still valuable.
Deliver a clear message that entices your audience through:
Short-form videos: Ideal for sneak peeks, teasers, and summarised versions of other content.
Infographics: An excellent way to repurpose blogs, case studies or key takeaways into easily understandable and visually appealing sales content.
Memes: Lighthearted and relatable while subtly promoting an offering. Just remember to stay true to your brand voice.
GIFs and images: A clever tactic that grabs attention and introduces more in-depth content. Visual elements are more likely to be remembered and shared than text alone.
Short and sweet text: Taking the “less is more” angle can still be surprisingly impactful. Here’s an oldy but goody by toilet paper company Charmin:
Repurpose Your Content
Presenting existing content in a fresh new format is an easy way to expand your reach across social media platforms.
Use this tactic to update old insights, reignite interest in a product or spark a new conversation. Content recycling applies to all media, so your options are endless. You can:
Create an ebook from your best long-form blog posts
Extract powerful quotes from articles, videos and podcasts
Make a SlideShare presenting key elements of a topic in an easy-to-understand way
Turn podcasts into videos or use them to write a blog post
Repost content from one platform to another
Once you know what works, implement a repurposing strategy for your entire trove of content. Apply it to any new material you create too.
3. Close Sales Quicker With Assignment Selling
As you’ve seen, content isn’t only useful for long-term goals like driving traffic or boosting Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).
It’s also vital for the rapid-fire short game of social selling and the art of persuasive presell pages.
But there’s another way that content directly drives sales at the individual level: assignment selling.
Marcus Sheridan first described the term in his book, They Ask, You Answer. It’s defined as the act of sending relevant, helpful content to prospects ahead of sales calls.
Why? To educate buyers and answer their most pressing questions before they’ve even asked them.
Sheridan identified this need while conducting sales calls for his company River Pools and Spas.
He was getting loads of website traffic and sales calls, yet his closing rate remained unchanged. After analysing the metrics, he found two distinct groups:
The first group had a 25% closing rate and had only viewed very little content on his website.
The second group had an average closing rate of 80% and viewed around 30 pages of content before becoming a customer.
Although less informed, the first group still requested sales calls, with many realising the product or service wasn’t a good fit.
Conversely, the second group was much more educated on what they wanted and eager to buy.
By implementing assignment selling, Sheridan saw the number of sales calls go down, but closing rates and revenues went up.
Essentially, this technique further qualifies leads, and high-quality leads always mean better conversions.
A low-quality lead who decides to go another route after being thoroughly informed of your offerings is no loss to you. In fact, it saves time and resources.
Here are a few tips for effective assignment selling:
First, review your current website content. Does it help potential customers make a tough purchasing decision? Can it answer questions prospects want (or need) to know before a sale? Is it honest and thorough?
Consult your sales team. Find out the top questions prospects ask that you can answer in your content. Topics like costs, options, product comparisons and reviews usually come up.
Create a content repository for your sales team to access and share with prospects easily. A simple spreadsheet with relevant article links alongside products or services does the trick:
Assignment selling is about proactively informing prospects, so they move through the sales funnel quicker.
It’s also about retroactive actions like sharing a useful video or article with a lead after initial contact.
It’s an easy strategy to implement, as long as you have the content to execute it.
4. Nail Newsjacking in Your Niche (or Not)
It might sound untoward, but newsjacking is actually a PR technique first popularised in David Meerman Scott’s book:
Over time, it’s evolved and expanded into inbound marketing and digital content practices leveraged by brands worldwide.
Newsjacking means capitalising on a newsworthy event to gain additional exposure and amplify your sales and marketing efforts.
It’s about selling your brand or promoting offerings with content around a larger conversation. Here are some top-notch examples:
Burger King Goes Big on the Big Mac
In 2019, McDonalds lost its “Big Mac” trademark in a European Union case ruling in favour of the Irish fast food outlet, Supermacs.
Burger King wasted no time poking fun at its rival with a limited edition menu called “The Not Big Macs”.
The options included food items like “Like a Big Mac But Actually Big” and “The Burger Big Mac Wished it Was”.
Burger King’s cheeky campaign won a FAB Award after gaining 4 billion impressions in its first week.
It’s a newsjacking that shows how selling with content can be daring, funny and effective—all while remaining professional.
. (Fab Awards, 2019)
Oreo in Area 51
Remember when social media became obsessed with raiding Area 51?
Oreo cleverly tweeted about it, starting a conversation about its cookie flavours that garnered hundreds of retweets and replies.
It’s a newsjacking that cost virtually nothing except a quick wit and a social media presence.
Nandos Sees the Bright Side
When South Africa’s electricity woes started up again, the cheeky fast food outlet, Nandos, was quick on the uptake.
Known for its witty humour, it used the country’s various stages of scheduled power cuts to promote its mobile app.
The campaign capitalises on current affairs while aligning with the brand’s voice in a fun and effective way.
Executed tastefully, newsjacking is a brilliant strategy that exposes your brand and products to a much wider audience. You can:
Structure a campaign around predictable events like celebratory days or happenings
Create content on breaking stories before they hit the mainstream
Link your products or services to an unpredictable event on social media
Try these tactics out but remain diligent around sensitive issues. The last thing you want is to alienate potential and existing customers.
Start Selling With Content That Sells
Content selling isn’t a linear concept. It’s an overarching strategy bridging the gap between your sales and marketing efforts.
It’s become non-negotiable in the age of the empowered consumer where everyone and their uncle vies for attention online.
Set yourself apart. Give prospects the tools to move down the sales funnel freely.
Use your content with intent.
By creating and curating material from the sales perspective, you can implement a well-rounded action plan that:
Enhances brand awareness
Establishes credibility and trust
Addresses consumer needs
Saves time and resources
Shortens the sales cycle
Incorporate the latest social media trends.
…And ultimately drives sales in real and practical ways.
It all starts with credible resources. They’re the backbone of content that sells.
So don’t be a hippo-twat-amus.
Check out Hippo Thinks for more thought-provoking, envelope-pushing and niche-specific pieces to stay ahead of the rest
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