How to Use Content Marketing to Drive Sales

December 16, 2015 Ray Cheng

What if I told you there are pieces of “content” out there that you might not be using correctly that could play a huge role in helping you close business? You’d likely be intrigued. What if I told you more than half of that content doesn’t actually talk about the product you’re selling? You might be dubious, but stick with me.

A study by Kentico Software found that 74 percent of people trust content from companies that educate them on a topic, but when those same companies include a product message, credibility drops by 29 percent. It’s your job to sell your product, but you need credibility to do this.

At Contently, we look at the “story matrix,” or the type of content created, as something that overlays the sales funnel. As a prospect moves down the funnel, the content you share with them moves down the story matrix, becoming more product-specific.

Too often, brands invest in creating great content but forget to properly train sales teams on how to use content to push leads further down the sales funnel. Here’s a breakdown of how you can use the content created by your marketing team (even the stuff that doesn’t directly talk about your product!) to win business:

How To Leverage Top-Funnel Content

A simple way that Forbes contributor Jayson DeMers looks at the sales funnel is “awareness, research, evaluation, purchase.” Top-funnel content helps with awareness, which attracts leads. Top-funnel leads want educational content, so it’s important to share engaging, non-promotional content. By proving your value to a lead, you’ll push them further down the funnel and, ultimately, to a purchase decision. You should:

  • Work with marketing to monitor if there any articles or videos that leads seem to really like. If so, these are the pieces of content you should be personally sharing.
  • Send personal emails with links to content as conversation starters when a lead has been cold for a while. By sharing content that is specific to their company, you will demonstrate your knowledge of their business, so pick something industry specific. The point of the email should be “I thought you would find this interesting…” The goal is to be a resource, rather than to ask for something.

How To Leverage Middle-Funnel Content

Middle-funnel content, such as e-books, white papers, and fact sheets, should be proactively shared with warm leads that are in the research and evaluation stage of the sales funnel. This is particularly important for brands with complex sales cycles and will trigger further conversations and meetings. You should:  

  • Work with your marketing team to understand which leads are actually reading, watching, and sharing the content. Monitoring if and when and what your leads are reading gives you a sneak peak into their brain and helps you find the right time to ask for follow-up meetings or calls.
  • Send personal emails with content to reiterate points you make in sales calls and meetings. Like this real conversation (with fake names photoshopped in) between a Contently sales strategist, and a lead, where the strategist has a video, an article, and a case study on hand to answer questions from the lead’s bosses:
email example


How To Leverage Bottom-Funnel Content


Bottom-funnel content is most useful for leads close to the purchase decision, and includes decision-assisting content such as case studies. Bottom-of-funnel content should be your “cherry on top.” To push the lead to purchase decision, you should:

  • Share content that proves that similar clients are achieving success with your product (i.e., case studies) as follow-up to sales meetings. For example, if I worked for Salesforce and was selling my product to a bank, I would follow-up a meeting by saying: “Ralph, Great seeing you again yesterday. Here is the Wells Fargo Bank Case Study we discussed for your team’s review. Looking forward to hearing your decision next week.
  • Understand what pieces of content may appeal to each decision maker or influencer. (In this stage, there are usually multiple influencers and decision makers weighing in on moving forward.) For example, a CFO may be interested in an ROI calculator, but a CTO may be interested in an infographic about efficiencies gained by investing your product.
  • Work with marketing to track how these decision makers engage with the content you send. (Do they share? How long do they read?) This time, in the decision process is very important, and everything the prospect does impacts how you’ll relate to them.

Key Takeaways To Closing New Deals Faster And More Frequently With Quality Content

  1. It might feel strange, but it’s worth investing the time to share top-funnel content that is not promotional.
  2. For mid-funnel content, build a plan of attack with the marketing team to give your leads the best content that helps them with their research and evaluation.
  3. For bottom-funnel content, share more proof through success stories and specific use cases of why your solution makes the most sense for the lead.

While it’s not the only tool that you should use to build relationships with prospects throughout the sales cycle, content is an incredibly effective one. Using content will help you shorten your sales cycle and increase your closed deals.

About the Author: Ray Cheng is VP of Marketing at Contently.

Featured Image Source: Volvo Car - Lego by Jyothis CC BY-SA 3.0 US Wikimedia Commons

About the Author

Ray Cheng

Ray Cheng is the VP of Marketing at Contently.

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