You’ve probably heard that content is king (I say queen). Content is the way to start wooing your prospects in advance of sales opportunities. Every conversation related to social selling includes a focus on using content to boost your credibility as a thought leader in your field. I don’t disagree with that premise. Buyers are doing early stage research, and the use of content that is relevant and educational can certainly work to your advantage. Buyers turn a deaf ear to the pitch, but they do pay attention when what you do, say and share makes it clear to them that you understand what is important to them.
The right content used strategically at the right time definitely, helps you stand apart from your competitors. But the big question is – should salespeople be the ones creating their content?
Many in the social selling space will insist that the answer is yes. Others say, absolutely not. After all, isn’t that marketing’s job? Me? I say it depends on your personal situation.
When you think about how to use content as part of your sales process, there are three ways you can approach it:
- Share the content of others.
- Share the content your marketing team produces.
- Create your own.
Let’s talk about each one.
Share the Content of Others
This can work to your advantage PROVIDED the content is relevant to your audience and offers them specific insights that can help them improve their business. This assumes something really important – you have to know what your buyer cares about.
Some investigative work is required. Your marketing department may have done buyer persona work you can use, and you can use social media to do your validation about what your targeted buyers are interested in. How? Ask yourself these questions about your target buyers:
-What content do they share on LinkedIn? Not just the topics, but the medium. Do they tend to share more articles or it is video or podcasts?
-What content topics do they comment on? Could be in tweets, LinkedIn status updates or on posts others are publishing.
-Who are the LinkedIn influencers they follow?
-Do they publish LinkedIn posts? If so, what topics do they write about?
-Who do they follow on Twitter and what kind of content do they share there? Is it business, more personal or a little of both?
- What about groups they have joined on LinkedIn, what types of questions do they answer or like?
The point is that online social behavior will provide clues to help you determine how to structure your thinking around the type of content to share. Then you can study your industry to determine who produces content that you believe your customers and potential customers will find of real benefit. Could be top bloggers, publications like Forbes, Harvard Business Review or Inc. Magazine. If you are appealing to folks in the sales world, perhaps you are sharing daily doses of content from Top Sales World. Might be a well-respected publication in your specific industry.
Will this take a little sweat equity to figure out and plan for? Yes. But, honestly, it isn’t too much and if your end game is to secure opportunities to have a sales conversation with buyers, well then, put in the effort.
Share Company Produced Content
Now that you’ve done the digging and have a good idea of what content will appeal to your prospective buyer, you can match those interests to the content your marketing team has worked hard to create. I’m thinking white papers, research reports, informative blog posts, interviews with industry leaders, etc. Be careful, though. If the content isn’t much more than dressed up sales pitches, I’d rethink how much company produced content you share. If the content is simply pitching products or services, that will turn buyers off.
Make a point to share relevant content once a day through the network of your choice. The platform where your prospective buyers are most likely to see it. Add a comment before sharing to bring attention to why your buyer should read the article. Tell them what you believe will be valuable to them.
Posting once a day doesn’t take a lot of time. What it requires though is knowing where the content is so that you get to it easily. Could be your company’s LinkedIn page, a content sharing portal that your marketing team has created and so on.
Produce Your Own Content
This one is tricky because there are only so many hours in the day. The main job of those of us in sales is to, well, you know, sell. The zealots will insist that no matter what, you have to make time to create content. Well, I don’t know about that. If you have a family you go home to that includes a spouse and kids; I’m not sure how much they’d appreciate you getting right to work on content once they finally have time with you. Okay, sure, you can get up an hour earlier. Maybe stay up after the kiddos have gone to bed. The point is you have to figure out what rhythm you can commit yourself to in this area.
If you don’t have a lot of experience creating content, it won’t be quite as easy as some experts would have you believe. You’ll need a content plan that includes topics, what type of content you will create, and where and how you’ll distribute the content. Questions have to be answered. If you blindly jump in, you will likely flounder and feel frustrated.
I know a few folks in the social selling space who INSIST salespeople WRITE their own content. I vehemently disagree! This is just another example of trying to force a one-size-fits-all approach onto everyone.
First, you must like writing. It isn’t easy.
Second, the goal is to create content that backs up your professional brand promise, demonstrates your expertise, and paints a picture of how you think and what working with you might be like. You want your words to lead buyers to think – hey, I want to talk to that person, I think they can help us.
Third, you need to do it well. I’ve read some of the most poorly written posts on LinkedIn ever. Words missing, capitalizing every word in a sentence, grammar way off, run on sentences and the like. Same goes for blog posts. Everyone makes mistakes but it is clear that some folks are writing stream of consciousness and don’t go back to edit themselves. Did I say that the content is representing you? If it looks like you are unable to string a few sentences together coherently, what message are you communicating to a potential buyer?
Writing is only one way to create content. There are many great ways to create content that is yours and here are 17 ideas to get those juices flowing. Maybe it is a presentation you create. How about conducting podcast interviews. What about a webinar you host with a panel of leaders in your industry that you invite prospects to attend, which you record and repurpose later. You might like creating short little video clips.
What I’m saying is that you need to figure out what you are most comfortable creating on your own and start there.
About that original question.
The answer isn’t yes or no. Most things are not black and white.
The answer is that salespeople need a content strategy that works for them. That much is true, and I believe it will be a mashup of the three approaches I shared in this post. It is probably a mix of 70% (other), 20% (company), and 10% (yours) in the beginning. You have to determine for yourself what will work best for you. Don’t listen to anyone insisting it has to be one way – as in you must write your own content - just because they said so. This is about your brand – not theirs! Never forget that!