This week, I walked into the office to find this snazzy little cardboard trophy standing tall on my desk. It was hard to believe, but it was my two-year work anniversary at IMPACT (or as I like to call it, my IMPACT-iversary.)
Before moving into my position as the Content Marketing Manager, I spent the majority of my IMPACT career in Client Services as an Account Manager and Strategist and along the way, I both laughed and learned.
During my two years on the agency front line, I saw a wide variety of clients. Some were B2B, some B2C, some hyperlocal, others international, but despite their many differences, there were five significant trends that were common almost across the board. Some of them may surprise you.
1. Sales and Marketing Weren’t Aligned
The most common problem I found with many clients was a pre-existing disconnect between sales and marketing.
Marketing didn’t know what made a sales lead “qualified” and sales didn’t know how to get leads the information they needed in order to be qualified. (A recent study by Kapost found that 65% of sales reps can’t find content to send to prospects that answers their most common complaints and questions, so at least we knew they weren’t alone.)
When these two departments are not on the same page, the bottomline of a business suffers. The leads going to the sales team aren’t ready to sign on or worse, they close without thorough information and end up dissatisfied.
What Can You Do?
To avoid this disconnect at your organization, consider implementing a scoring system using the following:
Lead Scoring: Quantifies the formula for a "qualified" sales lead by aligning specific activities with a point value. The more BOFU the action, the higher the point value. These points add up over time until they hit a certain threshold (determined by your sales team) and are deemed qualified for sales contact.
Life Cycle Stage: Like lead scoring, this helps identify where a lead stands in your pipeline. Instead of using a number, however, it uses a name and as a lead’s score goes up or down, it moves respectively to a new stage.
Lead Status: Once passed off to sales, this is the stage that the lead is in in the follow-up process.
Opportunity Stage: Once a lead has been deemed a tangible opportunity, this is percentage value representing how close they are to actually closing as a customer.
Overall, this system helps ensure that marketing knows exactly what they’re trying to achieve and gives them a definitive way of determining if their initiatives are being effective for the established sales goals.
2. Existing Content Wasn’t Keyword Focused
“In five years, marketers will be prized for their insight, not their creativity.” - Brian Massey
In its hay day, Marketing and Advertising was focused on being clever and creative. (Cue the Mad Men montage here.) It was about reaching as many people as possible and creating the greatest brand awareness, even if those reached weren’t necessarily the buyer.
In a modern, inbound landscape, awareness is still important, but quality has taken precedence over quantity.
One of the main ways we ensure that we reach an active and interested audience is through keywords and SEO. Unfortunately, many clients are stuck in the 1960’s Don Draper mentality, striving to be witty rather than keyword focused.
While good copy is a must, it should never be at the expense of keyword focused writing that will actually help a business get found in search engines.
What Can You Do?
Do your research and find long tail keywords that are actually being searched for by your audience. Once established, incorporate them into your copy so that it reads naturally.
If it doesn’t sound eloquent or natural, edit, edit, and edit again. The last thing you want to do is sound robotic or spammy for the sake of SEO.
3. Contacts Weren’t Segmented
No two personas are alike, but in an effort to save time and money, I noticed that many businesses treat them as if they are.
Some clients would want to send the same email to their entire 10,000 person database, while another would plaster identical messages on both Facebook and LinkedIn. Regardless of their Marketing sin, the blame always came back to there being no contact segmentation.
Even if a company only offers one product or service, chances are their buyers (individuals or companies) come from drastically different walks of life and respond to very different approaches.
To engage your audience, you need to be able to cater your message and tone directly to them. In order to do this, use their demographics and other contact information to group and pinpoint them by their interests, pain points, and preferences.
If you don’t have many details available, take note of these common segmentation points and start incorporating them into your forms and conversations for future use:
Income or Revenue
Source (Referral, Organic, Social, etc.)
4. A Brand/Voice Wasn’t Defined
When working with Marketing experts, clients should come to the table with detailed background information on their business. This includes the voice and brand they envision for themselves, but as I learned, this isn’t always the case.
While marketers can make suggestions based on industry and buyer persona research, the brand and voice of a company should be a true-to-life reflection of its culture and style of communication. After all, at the end of the day, no one knows the business, its processes, industry, or clientele better than the client themselves.
When this brand/voice is not established, marketers run the risk of being inconsistent, sending mixed messages, or misrepresenting the brand in their messaging.
What Can You Do?
Your brand/voice should reflect your company’s core values, culture, and unique offering. Sit down with your team to brainstorm and write down exactly what all of these pieces are.
Once this is agreed upon and thoroughly understood, your marketing team will be able to better develop a brand/voice that your buyer persona will respond to and help make it consistent across all assets.
5. The Value Proposition Was Unclear
Out of all of these trends I encountered, this had to be the most shocking-- A client who does not know what their value proposition is.
If not the exact wording, a business owner should at least have a clear understanding of what their core competencies and unique offering are; what sets them apart from their competition. This is the heart of the business. If it is unclear or undecided, the marketing messages that follow will be as well.
It’s also important to keep in mind that Inbound Marketing usually involves an initial ramp up period of 3-4 months. While businesses do change course from time to time, when this happens, you may find yourself starting again from square one.