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Using prospect marketing to take leads through the sales funnel

Using prospect marketing to take leads through the sales funnel

Customer prospecting, sales funnel, sales and marketing plan alignment … seems complex, right? But picking out potentially interested customers from the online crowd is easier than you think. A prospect marketing strategy involves content marketers and strategists creating and placing the right information in front of the right customers at the right stage of their buying journey.

Still a bit lost? We have a special guest who can help us better explain prospect marketing advice.

The term ‘prospecting’ probably conjures up images of an old-timey miner searching for gold more than it seems to relate to your marketing strategy. Today, we’re going to talk to an old-timey miner – let’s call him Zeke.

As bizarre as it sounds, your business has more in common with ol’ Zeke than you first thought.

Using prospect marketing to take leads through the sales funnel

Prospect marketing is like panning for gold – you have to decipher golden opportunities from duds.

Why is Zeke here to help?

Your business and Zeke are both trying to find the proverbial needle in the haystack – you want to find customers genuinely interested in buying your product or service from a mass of online web traffic. Meanwhile, Zeke is looking for a single piece of gold in a whole mountain. Prospecting in both its forms involves finding ways of determining the characteristics of what you don’t want and then using strategies to further filter out potential options, before landing the big prize at the end.

Zeke uses a pickaxe, dynamite and a bucket to find his gold – you need to use informative content, targeted at the right readers, in an effective email-driven campaign to find yours.

Both miners and businesses need time and patience to apply a prospecting strategy to land the big prize at the end.

How do you qualify a prospect from your leads?

Every enterprise will have leads – this is anyone who engages with your blog, email newsletter or social media profiles. But not all leads are equal. Some of your website users may have just discovered you, and want to read more about your products or services before taking new steps. Others may be using your information to produce their own content, or to assess new markets.

A prospect is any individual you identify as being actively interested in a sale. This might not mean an immediate purchase, depending on your business’ sales cycle. But it does mean they are ready to see new types of content or partake in different actions than others on your website.

Differentiating those ready to engage further with your business from those still learning is something Zeke would understand. Sifting through the myriad minerals mined over the course of a day to check for a seam of gold is very similar.

Luckily prospects have a few defining features that make them stand apart from other leads, much like gold flakes stand apart from other rocks. Ensuring your sales teams and digital strategists recognise these signs makes establishing your prospect marketing targets simpler.

Defining features of a sales prospect

  • Prospects generally have longer average time-on-page and read more content in a given session than readers just starting out on their purchase journey.
  • Prospects are more willing to share contact details or other useful information than users who aren’t ready to hear about the specifics of your products or services.
  • Customers interested in your brand often have higher rates of website engagement through social media, resharing content or making direct contact with your business.

Using Prospect Marketing To Take Leads Through The Sales Funnel

Prospect customers are more likely to engage with your business blog or social media channels than other users.

Using prospect marketing software

Drawing up your prospect targets requires a bit of work and SEO know-how. More than 40 per cent of salespeople say prospecting is the most challenging part of the sales process, according to HubSpot Research. However, tools such as HubSpot, Pardot and Marketo simplify this process.

HubSpot: HubSpot’s prospect management solution allows users to track visits to their website in real time, generating reports on landing pages visited, time spent on page and actions taken.

It also helps individuals to track the attributes of its most serious prospects and allows software users to set up custom email alerts and notifications. This helps to keep businesses abreast of changes in how readers interact with content and plan custom campaigns.

Pardot: The Pardot software enabling smarter lead generation combines three elements:

  1. Custom landing page builder to capture users
  2. Smart form fills to capture new users’ information with each interaction.
  3. Social media profile integration for improved prospect profiling.

Marketo: This lead management offering from Marketo allows businesses to attract users, nurture them into potential customers and then transform them into win-ready sales for conversion. This is made possible through a range of features that allow enterprise operators to customise and publish targeted content campaigns to specific website user demographics.

However, simply signing up for some software isn’t enough to generate the kind of high quality purchase prospects your inbound sales team can focus on. You also need to know how to lead individuals down the sales funnel, transforming them into paying customers. You should also understand the different types of content that compliment each stage of the buyer journey.

Prospects generally have longer average time-on-page and read more content in a given session than general readers.

Using the sales funnel to mine for prospects

The sales funnel is pretty simple. A lot of users engage with your business at the top, and while there are fewer people by the end, a higher percentage of them will purchase from your business.

The way you communicate with these users changes depending on their stage in the funnel. Failing to identify what stage of the buyer journey specific users are at can result in you targeting the wrong people with the wrong messages. No business has an infinite marketing budget, so maximising the efficiency of your content by getting it in front of the right audience is key.

So what is the sales funnel?

Top-of-funnel users: These individuals want answers to a problem. They will not be interested in a specific product or service they don’t yet have any understanding of, so information needs to be generalised to your industry and not appear too ‘salesy’.

Middle-of-funnel users: They will want to know more about what your business can offer on a macro level. Potential customers will also benefit from seeing examples where you addressed their personal problems successfully with other customers.

End-of-funnel users: These potential buyers are sold on your business, but will want more specific information on the product or service they are considering purchasing. Content should have sales-based calls to action – that’s the crucial part after all!

Using Prospect Marketing To Take Leads Through The Sales Funnel

Each lead will have different desires, depending on their place in the sales funnel.

Relating this back to ol’ Zeke

Again, the scenario is similar to how Zeke finds his piece of gold. The techniques and tools Zeke uses to mine a seam of gold once he locates it are different to when he’s finding the seam to begin with.

Prospect marketing increases your chances of guiding those who have interacted with your website along a defined path to increase brand engagement and, finally, purchase from your business.

HubSpot found that there’s a direct relationship between the number of opportunities in your pipeline and meeting monthly sales quotas. Unpacking this data, we see nearly three in every four businesses with between a single lead and 50 in their sales funnel fail to meet targets. This figure decreases massively to four per cent for businesses with more than 100 opportunities.

Using prospect marketing by producing content tailored to the needs of your website users helps to guide individuals down the sales funnel seamlessly from first contact through to conversion.

HubSpot data shows nearly 75 per cent of businesses with between one and 50 sales leads fail to meet sales quota targets.

How content applies to the sales funnel – what to use and when

Content at different stages of the sales funnel has different objectives for reaching its readers.

Top of the funnel: This work needs to raise awareness about your brand and your industry, and instill an interest in learning more about your products/services from other resources.

Middle of funnel: Focuses on turning interest into desire. You should connect the factors affecting your industry and your customers with your brand. Factors include:

  • Changes affecting your industry.
  • General consumer trends.
  • Common problems customers face.

End of funnel: Has the simple goal of driving action. Whether that’s a direct sale or convincing readers to book a product demo, start a free trial, etc.

Sales funnel

All content produced for your business should meet one of these sales funnel objectives.

Prospect marketing combines different kinds of content into one cohesive strategy that offers website visitors logical progression from interest to desire to action.

With these objectives in mind, here are five kinds of content you can apply to different stages of the sales funnel:

1) Blog content

Generally blogs are best suited to the awareness objective within the sales funnel. SEO-optimised articles that perform well in organic search are often the first point of access for users to enter your website. As such, blogging strategies should focus on demonstrating thought leadership in your industry and offering value-added solutions to web users’ problems. Blogs can also be used in a middle of funnel strategy to raise interest in a business’ place in is industry.

Avoid salesy talk if possible, and don’t expect a website visitor’s contact details in return. If your content is well-written and valuable, ongoing engagement with your blog, increased brand awareness and seeking other resources further down the sales funnel are reward enough.

2) High Value Content (HVC)

HVC, such as e-books and whitepapers, focus in more detail on topics covered in your blog articles while linking to how your business can address customer problems. This makes HVC ideal for middle of funnel content marketing.

HVC objectives differ depending on the style of content. E-books and look-books are often more salesy and promote features of your business or products/services further down the sales funnel. Whitepapers, meanwhile, are generally produced with a thought leadership focus. This makes whitepapers the perfect content for separating engaged prospects from interested leads.

HVC is often gated (users need to enter contact details into a lead form for access), ideal to help determine defining features of prospects within wider website lead demographics.

Prospect marketing combines different content into one cohesive strategy that drives website visitors from interest to desire to action.

4) Case studies and testimonials

Users towards the end of the funnel want information on others’ experience with your business and the way you have addressed other customer problems. Case studies and testimonials match this need, demonstrating that your enterprise stands apart from competitors.

As with any content produced for the end funnel, the call to action needs to be clear and direct. No sense in losing potential customers at this stage because of uncertainty about their next steps!

4) Newsletters

Periodic releases to customers via email, newsletters attract users back to the blog or HVC pages on a regular basis. This ancillary content is an essential part of prospect marketing strategies as it keeps your business in the minds of individuals interested in your organisation before.

5) Email marketing campaigns

Email marketing, or drip campaigns, are a tailored way to get the right kind of content in front of the right people in the sales funnel. The purpose of an email campaign is to tailor different content for different users based on their past actions on your website.

For example, you may start with an email talking about an upcoming sales promotion that has a call-to-action of visiting your e-commerce site. Users taking this action will receive a follow up email thanking them and linking to a calendar of future promotions, Those who ignore the email, meanwhile, may be sent a reminder and a link to a blog article explaining why people need the product or service you are promoting in your upcoming sale.

This way marketers can speak to people across their buying journey simultaneously and piece together an accurate picture of the kinds of users that respond to different types of content.

Using Prospect Marketing To Take Leads Through The Sales Funnel

This is the perfect example of a drip email campaign in progress.

Content marketing has a six times higher conversion rate than other forms of lead generation, according to research from the Aberdeen Group.

Of course there is more than one way to convert prospects into buyers. Paid advertising and promotion is popular among organisations lacking the time or resources in-house to manage high-quality content production.

However, while digital marketing may have changed a lot over the last decade, the written word remains king. Content marketing has a six times higher conversion rate than other forms of lead generation, according to research from the Aberdeen Group.

Now that you have the tools needed to get started, here’s how you should implement a prospect marketing strategy that would make even an experienced prospector like Zeke proud!

Building a successful prospect marketing strategy

A successful prospect marketing strategy requires business leaders to use a combination of the above content, SEO knowledge and ongoing account management to reach the right customers – just as Zeke uses a minecart full of tools and all of his prospectin’ nous.

Below is an example of how users can determine key objectives within the sales funnel, apply a range of content to meet these needs and drive more engaged prospects through to conversion.

Using Prospect Marketing To Take Leads Through The Sales Funnel

This epitomises specific content rolled out to readers at an appropriate place in the sales funnel.

Developing a prospecting strategy that aligns your sales and marketing team processes to uniquely suit your business requires you to:

  • Repurposing content is critical to your marketing strategy, but simply copying information across multiple channels doesn’t make effective prospect marketing. Treat all potential customers to unique, insightful content, no matter where they are on the buyer journey.
  • Automate manual posting and emailing elements where possible. This will reduce your salespeople’s time spent on administrative tasks and lower the risk of the wrong information being sent to the wrong prospect demographic.
  • Ensure you maintain a regular flow of information to your prospects. Aim for around one email every 10 days and continuously add new blog articles, HVC assets and case studies to your website.

What we learned

Our prospect marketing advice was designed to get you thinking about your regular website visitors, their intentions and place in their own buying journey. In summary:

  • Prospect marketing is a strategy identifies prospective customers and leads them to convert.
  • You can differentiate prospects from regular customer leads by monitoring their engagement with your website.
  • Different types of content apply better to different stages of the sales funnel. Using a range of content helps you target users with the right information for them.

If so, you’re ready to go on and mine a rich seam of valuable potential customers to its potential!

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Ciaran Bruder
Ciaran Bruder About the author