Previously I had elaborately discussed the lifecycle of an email subscriber. However, emails are just one part of nurturing customers during their buyer’s cycle. When a SaaS company implements inbound marketing strategy, it generates three major kinds of leads. If I have to represent it in form of a funnel, the top part will consist of the small startups, the middle will have the SMBs and the tip of the funnel will consist of the corporate leads or enterprise leads. Usually, this type of leads is generated in very few numbers are handled in a different way altogether. You can read about handling corporate leads in another article based on account-based marketing.
However, inbound marketing is a long process. Acquiring customers and retaining them requires a marketer to monitor each customer throughout their lifecycle. It’s not a one-day wonder where you email once and sit back. To help you get started and also understand the realities, I have divided this article into three basic sections:
- Customer lifecycle
- Sales Funnel
- Content strategy
This article is a guide on customer acquisition for SaaS companies. Its main aim is to help you in designing, analyzing, and optimizing your customer acquisition process. The secondary purpose is to help in moving customers in the lifecycle stages as well as show you effective ways in how the marketing, sales as well as the customer success team can work together. Simultaneously we will also identify where the responsibility of each group lies through all these stages.
To measure how effective your customer acquisition funnel is, all you have to do is track the metrics that measure any leakages that arise when the prospects move from one stage to another. There are a lot of miscommunications, missing data and great risks of losing prospects when prospects are being handed over from the marketing team to the sales team and eventually to the customer acquisition team. By the end of the process, a lot of things will be out of order like responsibilities, definitions, and success metrics.
To increase the ease in the transition of prospects from one stage to the other, content strategy is the most vital and effective way that will produce results.
As we get deeper into understanding every step of the funnel, you will get a clear perspective and will see the importance of content strategy analysis from the perspective of the customer lifecycle. Because of simplicity, our diagram of customer acquisition does not include the reference to target customer profiles, product positioning, and value messaging. These topics will need their special discussion forum to be discussed at length.
For the sake of clarity, the diagram also does not contain customer acquisition cost (CAC) and the Customer lifetime value (LTV).The purpose of the customer acquisition is to track and monitor the company’s effectiveness in attracting, engaging, converting, and retaining customers. Click To Tweet
There are a few questions that I will discuss before we move ahead in our discussion.
#1 Can my SaaS Company bank on this customer requisition framework to be the perfect fit?
There are numerous ways in which a SaaS company can keep track of how effective their customer acquisition framework is; this is just one of the many ways. You will expect that the Slack’s customer acquisition strategy will be different from that used by Salesforce. Even so, the companies whose business models, product prices, and deal size are similar, will always have customer acquisition funnels that are also similar. I advise that if you take this approach, you should tailor it to meet your specific needs.
#2 Why do I need to create a new Customer Acquisition Funnel?
If you look throughout time, a lot of information has been penned down by top investors, marketers, and founders about SaaS sales cycles and the metrics, customer acquisition funnels, and content strategy. Even so, it is still important for you to have a new customer acquisition funnel.
What we present in our discussion today about customer acquisition framework for SaaS differs in many ways from the writings that were there. This is according to what I found out during my research. What I present here also gives information about the strong impact that content will have on the customer acquisition. We will also see the importance of customer lifecycle is for the speedy growth of SaaS as it can help in tracking as well as in making decisions concerning the same.
#3 Why is X missing in this framework?
I always wanted to provide an easy to understand information and that is the main purpose of this framework. It is comprehensive yet digestible. All I hope for is that anyone running a SaaS business will have a new and clear perspective after looking at this diagram. I also hope that they will use these ideas for the optimization of their customer acquisition processes.
For instance, in the diagram, the content strategy is under the impression that your company’s messaging and positioning for the product is clear and precise. In other words, it assumes that you have thorough profiles for customer targets which are used by the team involved to get a better understanding of all the people who play vital roles in the buying process as well as understand the customer value your product offers them.
PART 1: CUSTOMER ACQUISITION FRAMEWORK
What makes a customer lifecycle differ from a sales funnel?
Customer lifecycle: This will help your company get a deeper understanding of the customer’s experience with the product as well as the actions they are taking.
Sales funnel: This typically gives the internal processes that must be followed by companies during the process of moving prospects down the funnel, and it ensures that it is done effectively and efficiently.
As you study the diagram, you will see that the customer lifecycle is longer than the funnel. To track the funnel and the customer cycle as some companies do, one realizes that the sales funnel part of what makes the lifecycle.
Sales-centric approach versus customer-centric approach
If we put our minds into discussing the Sales Funnel in the Customer Acquisition Framework, we will easily forget that customers will have different perceptions of your product and the multiple conversion paths.
As the prospects are moved through the sales pipe, the Sales Funnel will be used in analyzing the effectiveness of the process. The company will always see that a prospect’s current stage is same as the sales funnel stages and as they move down the funnel, they are increasing the chances of the deal being closed.
For instance, based on the previous sales, a company can be convinced that their probability of sealing a deal with a prospect is 30% when they are at the opportunity stage. This probability will be used in carrying out sales, planning, and modeling activities. If in the present, they have $500,000 in opportunities, once a business is closed, they stand to make $150,000.
Note: While doing sales planning, always monitor the average time spent in moving a prospect from the opportunity stage to when the deal is sealed. Using the example above, if the company takes 60 days for the business deal to be sealed, then the company can expect to have $50k net 30 as revenue and what will remain will be $100K net 60.
Customer Lifecycle framework has the sole purpose of making the customer the primary focus of the buying process and how they move along in that process. With it, you can have a greater understanding of the actions of the customer, and you will be able to monitor the increasing probability of buying a product.
There are instances where the customer lifecycle funnel is of greater importance than the sales funnel. This is when a company operates using a Freemium model. The perfect example of this is Slack. All their basic services are offered for free, but for one to get additional features, they have to become to pay a certain amount of money. For the sales funnels that have MQLs and SQLs, Slack does not track them because they use the bottom-up approach to customer acquisition.
Finally, every company that has high product prices, a lot of emphases should be put on sales cycle monitoring. For instance, the free trial for Salesforce cannot compare to that of Slack regarding their usefulness because Salesforce’s product is very complicated and will require a lot of resources for its integration. In this situation, using the internal sales funnel will be of greater help.
1.2. Customer Lifecycle Funnel
Typically, for this representation, a circle is always used. However, for easy visualization of the sales funnel’s relationship with the customer lifecycle, we will use a vertical representation. For a circle to be completed, the customer will have to go through six steps. Every step will require that a customer takes a specific action and once the action is taken; there will be a transition between the stages. For easy understanding, think of the stages in a circle as the different levels in a video game.
For you to say that one is a visitor, they have to make contact with your company by visiting the website. On the website, there must be an action they can take like signing up for the product’s free trial. When they do this, they become your company’s prospect. The prospects will then become active users when have used the product up to a certain level, and value of the product has been delivered.
Let us go through the stages in a detailed way.
This category is for everyone who visits the website, and it is vast. Typically, everyone that visits the website is a potential customer (not always true.) Even so, when the visitor signs up for the free trial that you are offering, they become prospects. They can download case studies, eBooks, and so on.
To move to the next stage, you will need to take an action that will result in a conversion.
When a visitor converts on a website, they become prospect; they become potential clients that have showed their interest in what the company deals with. These are the pains, solutions, products, or materials that company offers. In an instance where your company has bought a contact list from a third-party, of people who may be interested in the product, these people do not qualify to be called prospects. This is because they have not expressed any interests in what the company offers and the sales development team has not approved them.
Metric: The rate of conversion
The rate of conversion will help you gauge the effectiveness of the website and the content. Even so, the conversion rate of the visitors can be ignored because it is a generic metric. However, the conversion rates for free trials offered as well as the sign up for the product are more actionable.
To move to the next level, take action to ensure that the first value is delivered.
It is a big mistake to fail to track user activation during the beginning of the sign-up process or the free trial sign up. This is very common with SaaS companies. Since all they are focused on doing is getting the customers into the product, they tend to forget that first interaction with the product should come first. Companies will always put a lot of efforts and resources and efforts into getting prospects in. These resources should be multiplied while designing the initial experience that prospects will have with the product so that they can have that ‘aha’ moment once the value is delivered for the first time.
Once you have prospects, you will have to deliver core value unit of the company to them so that they can be activated. You should have in place, numerous elements and features that will get the prospect enticed so that they can ascend to the level you want them to reach.
Typically, for Slack, once a team hits 2000 messages, the user becomes activated as we discussed in The Cost of Poor User Onboarding.
There are other goals for the user activation process, and a few examples include:
- Subscription billing: This is done by connecting one’s payment options or their bank account, and it is for the sole purpose of activating users.
- Platforms that connect farmers, distributors, and chefs: When one places the first order of the produce, activation is tracked.
- Airbnb: when a visitor saves their first listing, activation can be tracked
- Lyft (yes, I’m rooting for the underdog!): Once a user connects their credit card to an app, activation can be tracked.
I believe you understand the concept perfectly.
The metric here is the rate of activation.
The rate of activation is a ratio used to track the effectiveness of a company when it comes to delivering the first value as well as in the design of the first experience a user will have with the product. The activation rate shows the percentage of the customers who activated their free trial and had their first value unit delivered.
- Customer paid: the action that should be taken to move to the next level.
Note: as SaaS company will have a difficult time using an onboarding solution of a third-party. User onboarding is a vital step, and you may never find an outsider who can create the perfect product that will meet the expectations of your customers. This is something that the product team should always keep in mind.
When a user or prospect pays for the product, they become customers. The next goal is to ensure that the customer becomes very active. You should ask your team these questions.
- Are our products used regularly by your customers?
- Is the value of the solution we deliver to them satisfactory making them happy?
The metric here is the daily or weekly rate of active users.
To move to the next level, the action required is to use the product regularly.
2. Active customer
There is a chance that the customers can pay for the product but do not put it to use most of the times. For one to qualify as an active customer, they must be putting the product to use more often. They also receive the value of the product and the make a habit of using the product on a regular basis. Therefore, every SaaS company has to identify the product usage that has high Lifetime Customer Value as well as higher rate of renewal.
The metric here is the rate of renewal/ churn.
To move to the next level, the action required is for the customer to renew/upsell the product.
3. Loyal customer
A customer that renews or signs up for more features becomes a loyal customer. The extra features can include API access, extra seats, and so on.
The metric here is the net promoter score or referrals.
With the Customer Lifecycle, you will be able to know and understand your customer’s experience with your product as well as the company. The customer action will typically fuel the funnel because the approach in place is customer-centric.
- For a customer to go to another stage, they must take a certain action
- Conversion metrics will help to keep track as well as optimize the different stages by making them more effective.
- It is vital to check the ‘Activated Users’ for every product that has free trials. The intermediate steps found between the stages of the ‘prospects and ‘customer’ are measured by the metric
- It is mandatory that a company is aware of its product’s frequency of use by the customers as well as the quantity of value they get.
Note: in a large company, it will be impossible for one person to handle the buying decisions. From this, we understand that ‘Customer Lifecycle’ is not about one manager or one end user. It is about everyone that is involved in the processes of buying and using the product.
- Any company can ask for case studies and referrals from its customers whenever it seems appropriate. However, you have to ensure that they get the best and highly consistent before you proceed with your requests. Also, ensure that you deal with active users when you want to make any requests.
1.3. Sales Funnel
The customer cycle has the primary goal of making everything revolve around the customer and their experiences. However, Sales Funnel is all about stated actions, processes, and workflows that are used to ensure the effectiveness of the sales process and its optimization.
The sales funnels should answer the following questions
- What guidance does the team use to prioritize leads?
- What methods does the team use in nurturing prospects?
- For the closed deals, which actions by the prospects were higher after comparison?
- What time is spent before the SDR team reaches out to a lead with lead scores that qualify them?
- How long is the cycle of the sales?
- In moving prospects from one stage to the other, what metric will show the efficiency of the process?
- After how long and what procedure is in place for the handing off of prospects to different teams in the funnel?
- Is there an onboarding plan in place?
Here is a closer look at the sales funnel.
The sales funnel has two channels, the inbound channel and the outbound channel and the lead can enter through any channel.
Outbound leads: these are the leads which have been developed by the Sales Development Reps (SDRs) by identifying accounts that have no information concerning the company. To generate these leads, companies still use the outbound email outreach which is still very popular and productive. The outbound channel also has cold calls, direct mails, social media messaging, and more.
Learn more: from the eBook, The Ultimate Startup Guide to Outbound Sales by Steli Efti, you will get more information about starting an outbound sales activity for your startup.
Inbound leads: these are leads that arise when a prospect signs up for a free trial or when they submit their information to the company so that they can get an asset like a case study, a newspaper, and so on.
Note: when dealing with an account-based approach for selling, pre-qualifying accounts are used before outreaches are initiated. Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) will be assigned when a prospect shows that they are interested in what the company offers.
The action required so that a customer can go to the next level includes separating bad data and adding more information to the inbound leads.
Two things always happen with any company after it adds to their database the lead data whether it is by marketing automation or CRM. These are 1) sifting the bad data; 2) Adding more information to the incoming leads using solutions from a 3rd party. (If you have any ads, this is the place to put them – I am just kidding)
Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)
There are different types of leads, and not all these leads are equal. Therefore, a scoring system in place will be of great help. The scoring system will give the chances of sealing a business deal.
For easy and smooth communication with prospects, Lead Nurturing Campaigns are crucial. In nurturing leads, ensure that you have highly informative and educational content. You can use drip campaigns, webinars, and newsletters as the advantage that will put your marketing team above other teams. They will help the team in qualifying leads as well as finding the right time for their problem to be discussed. Ensure that you have different levels of the leads score so that when the prospects hit a certain level; they are taken to the stage for Sales Qualified Leads.
Learn more: There will be instances where there will be an abundance of MQL. From Tom Wentworth’s article, Why I’m Killing the Marketing Qualified Lead, you can get interesting points. From my point of view, if the average deal size is very large and customers cannot perform self-trail for the solutions you offer, you can use marketing assets to generate leads, and you will find this to be very effective. However, if the solution you are selling is self-service such as Slack, Google Apps, or Dropbox, you can ignore lead forms and drive customers to the product directly. Even so, you will still be required to give a lot of priority as well as to nurture the growth in numbers of the people coming for your product. You can also read Why We’re Throwing Out All of Our Lead Forms and Making Content Free by David Cancel and Dave Gerhardt from Drift so that you can have more takes on the matter.
To move to the next level, the action required is for the lead score to reach the target stated so that it can be moved to the next stage of SQL.
Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)
This is the stage where the sales development team performs the qualifications for leads. For the leads to be qualified, the target audience will be the primary source. The target audience should provide enough information that is going to give the prospect’s level of pain as well as the interest.
For the qualification process, one can use the BANT framework. BANT stands for Budget, Authority, Need, and Timeframe.
Note: Some companies can sell complex solutions or can have multiple people that are involved in the purchasing process such as influencers, decision makers, and end users. For this kind of company, the qualification process should put into consideration the different goals and value points for every group that will take part in the process of buying. If there are decision-makers who are in involved with two different companies, they will be tasked with solving two different problems. This will be advantageous for your account executive that will have a weapon once they identify the differences.
The action required for one to move to the next stage is for the prospect to be qualified by SDR using the BANT approach.
A lead becomes an opportunity when it has passed all the parameters set as qualifications. A demo will be scheduled for the prospect and the account executive by the SDR.
It is important to always assign every opportunity a dollar amount based on the deal size projected. This will help sharpen the skills of the SDRs which are vital when it comes a time to qualify and target the outbound accounts. The account executives should always make opportunity prioritization based on the size of the deal.
A guided free trial for the prospect will be set up by the account executive. To increase the chances of sealing a business deal with customers to reduce the sales cycle length, you can get the customers to agree on particular metrics.
The required action to move to the next step is a demo that has been completed or a guided free trial.
#3 Proof of Concept (PoC)
In the sales process, the proof of content becomes more important when the deal size goes higher. For the products that are self-serving, showing a demo and giving unlimited and unrestricted access to solutions that a prospect can toy around with becomes easy. However, sometimes the product may require 3rd party data integration. What will you do?
Complicated products may cause a challenge when it comes to setting a trial period for prospects, and it may require a lot of extra resources. For this, the account executive, together with the prospect, should determine how they will measure the success of the product and the quantity of the deal size should the trial end up being a success.
When a company is dealing with technical products, a sales engineer will be of great help in the discussions.
The action required here is negotiations and delivery of proposals.
This is the part that has the most fun. The first proposal that has been signed will be submitted, and the customer will make the first payments. You will get the chance to ring the sales bell and pop the champagne in celebration. Even so, this is the point where the real work begins. The customer need be fully onboard and trained by the customer success team this will ensure accessibility of the product by everyone in the team.
Here, the action required to get to the next step is setting up the product.
The onboarding process is led by the customer success team (CST), and this helps the customer to learn more about the use of the solution purchased. For a complicated onboarding process, you will find that there are numerous levels of access as well as user roles.
There are those excellent that take the responsibility of training their customers regarding the product on a weekly basis by hosting webinars. During these training, the CST will explain the common features of the product as well as any new and features or changes that have been incorporated.
Companies can also host individual training for the customer’s inside team to sharpen their skills and knowledge and make them more effective. Typically, the process of onboarding never comes to an end. Brands had become famous only when they got a grip on the simplest fact: when your customers are happy, it will be cheaper to maintain them than when you are dealing with new customers. An excellent and top-notch CST should always have monthly or bi-weekly meetings with the sole purpose of reviewing the customer’s metrics and see whether or not the product meets their needs fully and satisfactorily.
The action required to move to the next level is to complete the training.
LEARN MORE: There are a few great articles written by Lincoln Murphy about customer success and onboarding that will be of great help. When it comes to customer success, he is the master.
The churn, upselling, and renewal metrics are used to measure how effective the customer success of a team is. For most companies, conversations about renewal are initiated between two and three months before the expiration date for an annual contract. Even so, as stated earlier, if there are consistent and regular communications between the customer success team and the customers, this meeting is not necessary. As the CST engages in touch-base calls, conversations about renewals should be introduced.
Churn rate: This is the percentage rate in a year where customers’ subscription to services is stopped.
Every sales process should be based on a design that makes it easy to identify, in the sales cycle, the stage where a prospect is as well as the qualifications they must need to go to the next stage. When you monitor the conversion-metrics found in every stage, you will know where to put your focus so that you can have increased sales effectiveness. In the process, you will also be able to build strong relationships with customers, and this will earn you higher rates of renewal.
For you to understand how the sales processes, the goals, and workflows keep changing on every stage of the company, I recommend that you read The Sales Acceleration Formula by Mark Roberge.
OPTIMIZING FOR CUSTOMER ACQUISITION
2.1. What are the common leakages found in Customer Acquisition Funnel?
If you have never watched a track or field relay, I recommend that you spare a minute and watch the women’s 4×100 final at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
The baton handoff is the most important part of this relay as we may have already seen and as we may know.
Every baton handoff process has tricky parts. For the runner, also known as the sender, more speed must be maintained before the handoff. The one is at the receiving end must have good timing for accelerating. There is always a need to receive the baton when close to the top speed. There is something that I hope you took notice of while watching the video.
The receiver of the baton does not look back at the giver of the baton. They only stick their arm back and trust that the runner will rightly position the baton in their hands. For this transition of the baton to be smooth and effective, a lot of practice and trust is needed.
Just like we have seen in field relays and tracks, customer handoff is very important and requires a lot of precision and care. When the customer is handed to another team, there is a great risk of losing the prospect because of loss of data, a workflow that is wrong, and poor process, just to mention a few.
At the top of the customer acquisition funnel, marketing is always at the top, and it hands the sales team the prospects. The sales team will hand off the customer to the customer success team after closing the business deal. There are a lot of risks presented in these two handoffs and particularly the pipeline mismanagement. Other than these two handoffs, there is also the handoff that happens within the sales team, and they are the sales development rep (SDR) and account executive (AE).
Leakage #1 – Handoff from marketing to Sales
This handoff will always bring forth classic tension between the two teams. Typically, the marketing team will claim that they generated a lot of leads while the sales team claims that the leads quality is not as expected.
Prioritizing leads through lead scoring
SDR faces problems relating to time management and prioritization when inbound leads increase in volume. At such times, marketing will need to show understanding to the SDR teams concerning how they carry out prospect’s qualification and consequently help them spot CLV potentials or opportunity sizes.
Lead scoring is an easy and effective way to be used by marketers for prioritizing. This can be done basing on the personal data of a prospect such as their company depending on what is included in their email address. For example, email@example.com domain.
Establish a feedback loop between marketing and the sales team
A basic way should be put in place to be used by the marketers for receiving feedback about the leads by the sales team. A lot of companies will overlook this because it is a hard thing to optimize lead scoring and prioritization when there is a lack of a structural feedback loop from the sales team that is consistent.
Experiment with SDRS reporting to the marketing VP
There are those companies that will let the SDRs give their report to the head of marketing. For instance, they make the responsibility of the VP of marketing to oversee the generation of demand and the qualification of the prospects. This will typically, create an agile and responsive team. You need to understand that agreeing on subjective metrics like lead quality is not as easy as agreeing on the customer demo.
Leakage #2 – Handoff between sales and customer success teams
Every customer success team is required to have a customer onboarding that is clear and precise.
Bring to the sales process, customer success.
Customer success teams should be brought up earlier and particularly for extremely technical products and solutions. During the sales process, technical issues may come up and this may prolong the sales cycle. The customer success team should, therefore, be present in the sales process to offer support as well as answer onboarding questions thus shorten the sales cycle.
How to Improve the Handoff Process from One Team to the Other?
#1 Have an agreement on the definitions
Your team should always use the same definitions at all times. They should avoid instances where they use terms interchangeably thinking that they have the same definition. Most times, the definition will differ one from another. The playbook for customer acquisition should have all definitions for every term that should be used by the team.
#2 Have an agreement concerning the process/workflow
The process should be specific and simple, and you must be able to draw it. If not, then there is no process. You do not need to have a complicated process because a simple one can equally be effective when used rightly. In the process, put some rules as well. Some examples include:
The SDR should contact prospects that meet the qualifying leads within 48 hours
If there are any “request a demo” leads, they should be passed to the SR immediately by the marketing
After signing the deal, the customer success team should send the onboarding plan and schedule to the customer within the first five working days.
Tracking, measuring, and optimizing handoffs
You need to have a specified timeframe for your SDR team to contact any prospect who has hit the lead score target. By carefully looking at the conversion metrics from each stage, you will be in a position to identify where handoff leaks occur so that you can make changes. In the previous section, we talked about velocities and the team can greatly benefit from tracking it. Some of the things you can look into are.
- Average time that is taken by the SDR to contact the lead that has hit the target lead score
- Average time the customer takes to set up the product
- Average time it takes for the onboarding of customers
Typically, leakages will happen when the prospect is passed from one team to the next during the customer acquisition. This is between marketing to sales and then to customer success. Therefore, companies should always track how much goes in every stage and the kind of guidelines in every stage. The rate of conversion will track the former, and the velocity of the metrics will track the latter.
PART 3: CONTENT STRATEGY
3.1: How content strategy drives Customer Acquisitions
Content strategy is a very vital part of the process of customer acquisition. When your prospects are highly educated about the product, the easier it will be to close a deal and speedily. Feed the prospects with information about their pains, the possible solutions present, and how the product will resolve their problems. When there is a balanced approach to content, companies, getting a higher demand and having shorter sales cycle is inevitable, and many companies know this. When content is informative and very educational, you will always have an improved demand always and a sales cycle that is short. When you address their primary concerns, objections, and roadblocks, the sales cycle will be shortened, and when you make the content educational, the demand goes higher.
Because of the content, you will be able to convert the prospects to customers because you will be able to answer vital questions.
Some of the questions that fall under the categories of awareness and education include the following. Why does a prospect need to care about the challenges solved by the product? What importance does it have?
When dealing with content strategy, your main concern should be to ensure that people are interested in the topic. At any given time, you can rest be assured that there is a prospect who is not aware they have to care about the solutions you offer for a problem. When you do your research, and you gather your statistics, you can be sure that you will attract the people’s attention. When making the awareness content, remember that it needs to be simple and have the capacity always to grab attention.
How can a prospect be educated?
This falls under the educational category where you have to educate and feed the customer with rich information.
At this juncture, we are assuming that the prospect is aware that the industry is facing challenges. It is time for you to enlighten them on how they can overcome these challenges and improve the performance of their jobs. Remember, it is not about the product; you are educating them on how they can be better at their jobs.
All stages of customer acquisition have educational category of content
In the future, sales will lean towards educating the people rather than meeting the sales target. The major purpose will be about the solutions it offers and not about the product.
For instance, if you look at a car salesperson, initially, they would sell cars based on the specifications. However, in today’s world, this information is less important because anyone can access this information. As we journey towards the future, the salesperson will serve the purpose of a consultant who helps people find the best car that fits their job or the plans they have for the car.
How you can solve the prospect’s problem
This falls into the content’s selection category.
Here, the prospects know the problem because you have educated them about it as well as the strategies or tactics they can put to use. Now, educate them on how they can resolve this problem and how the solution you bring can help in making their jobs better.
Note: if you have taken part in positioning exercises and you know how the solution you are offering fits the present marketplace, the trends, and the industry challenges, you will come up with a story that is powerful.
Why should a prospect choose you?
This falls under the content’s selection category.
When it comes to buying solutions, it is never an easy job. This complex process will involve the decision makers, the influencers, and the end users and you can be sure that no every decision that will be arrived at will be primarily dependent on your product or solution. There will always be other similar solutions that are equally as good, and a prospect may pick them. Therefore, the sales reps should always ensure that they have answers for every question asked by the prospects concerning the difference that puts the product above the competitors. Here, product positioning will be crucial. Ensure that the content that is available to the public addresses common objections and complains.
How should the prospect use the solution?
This falls under content’s training category.
Getting the clients to pay for a product is a stage located in the middle of the funnel as we had seen earlier. After they have paid, you should ensure that they constantly get value for what they have purchased every day. At this point, the training content will now be used. The training content can be and should be in various formats like visuals, videos, audios, and text among others. The content can be developed internally by the support, product team, and sales or it can be developed externally where a community is created, and a knowledge base is shared.
Simplified content strategy
We have looked at the customer acquisition process from the perception of content strategy. You should always remember that content is the greatest weapon you will ever have and the only weapon you need to attract, engage, convert, and retain customers.
With the content, you can be able to educate the prospects regarding their challenges, the possible solutions, and how the product you are offering will solve the problem. Because of the content, your solution will be set apart from those offered by competitors and make your product to stand out. With the content, you can also have an easy time when you want to quickly onboard the customers that sign up. You will also use it to keep educating them, and in no time, they will be active customers and ultimately renewal customers. In the customer acquisition funnel, content strategy can be seen to be an integral part that cannot be considered to be less important.
- Many companies make the mistake of making a lot of awareness content and neglecting educational, selection, and training content because awareness content requires a lot of resources.
- Educational content cuts across every stage n the customer lifecycle as well as the sales funnel. I strongly believe that in no time, educational content will become a part that cannot be ignored by any enterprise.
- It is crucial for the marketing to have a content strategy. It is even more important that the sales team, as well as the customer success team, should participate in the formulation of the content strategy as well as the creation. You have already noticed that content strategy cuts across all the stages of customer lifecycle and the sales funnel.
There are a few important topics that we have not discussed such as how content strategy is impacted and influenced by positioning and target customer profiles.
3.2. The biggest and most common content strategy mistakes to avoid
There are so many “me-too” contents that exist talking about content marketing in details.
The purpose of the customer acquisition is to track and monitor the company’s effectiveness in attracting, engaging, converting, and retaining customers.
- Do we have any new perspective that can be advantageous to this conversation?
- Is the quality of the content excellent? Is the sophisticated reader’s curiosity satisfied?
There are also many places where you should not look for content; one of them is Google Search. Interviewing your prospects is always a valuable tactic that you can employ when you want new ideas for content. A lot of teams overlook the following content marketing strategies.
Mistake#1 – Only the marketing team needs a content strategy
This is the truth, but in as much as we agree with it, customer success and sales teams need to be involved with the content strategy and its creation process. You may also involve the whole company. During the sales processes, the sales teams also hear of such objection sand they have come to understand how messages can differ one from another. The customer success teams will also get the same questions from their customers so there is no reason as to why the information should not be used.
Internal customer usage data is a powerful tool and can be used to create content that has a high-performance power. It is an effective way that is underrated sometimes. Concerning solutions sold for outbound email automation, always dig into the internal data that you have and the data you receive. Take into account the average rate of response, perfect days for sending emails, number of emails you have to send before you get a reply, and the steps taken by the average outbound sequence should be shared. The customers you have will appreciate this, and you will be far ahead of your competitors because they cannot copy what you are doing.
Mistake #2: Lack of clarity of the story and the story
The positioning of the product and the company will always play a role in driving your content strategy. It will help you decide on the topics to write about, the voice that you should use, and the terms and the definitions to use. Have a look at a few examples here: how top tech companies position themselves to increase brand awareness and recognition.
Mistake #3: Creating the content before having target customer profiles
Majority of markets know and understand that you cannot start your content without having a target customer profile in mind. In creating the target customer profiles, you should know that it is more than knowing the customer. It requires that you understand their goals, day to day activities, their problems as well as their values. Marketing teams can create a strategic messaging map from the target customer profiles, and the team can use it as a cheat sheet.
Mistake #4: Placing too much focus on awareness content and not educational content
Most of the time, when someone says that their content marketing is not producing a lot of results, you can rest be assured that 80% of the reason revolves around awareness content and the educational content available is very little. It is not an easy thing to create educational content because deep industry knowledge is required. The marketing team is not well equipped with this knowledge, and there are hardly any processes built that will allow for marketing to have easy and frequent engagements with teams that are very knowledgeable when it comes to industry knowledge. Typically, content marketing is greatly associated with the marketing team. Even so, companies should encourage people to work closely with marketing team during content creation, and this should be a responsibility that has been scheduled.
Mistake #5: Treating content distribution with very little seriousness
Always make sure that your team always has a content distribution plan in place. It is never enough to post the content created on the website alone. It should be shared across numerous social media platforms and must also be part of the next newsletter. Have a plan for distributing the content and the plan should cover 7-14 days. This will ensure thorough distribution. There is a separate article where I have discussed this; How to Improve Your Content Distribution Strategy.
Mistake #6: Giving up a lot sooner
A lot has been said about companies that give up too soon on content as well as those that are only doing content marketing because everyone else is doing it. Therefore, they feel compelled to do it.
Here are two questions you can ask:
- How do you measure the effectiveness of the content?
- What metrics should you track?
Many companies go wrong when they think that the marketing team is the only team that should worry about content marketing. What managers of these companies fail to realize is that we are heading to a future where an enterprise’s sales and selling will be centered on customer education as well as consulting. There are numerous booming trends in marketing that are causing people to forget that positioning of the product and the story drive the content which will, in turn, build very strong brands. Every day, we forget that everything has become less of the demographics and more of the customer’s values that are behind the buying decisions. The quality of the content is what matters as compared to its quantity. Every amazing content will always need to be put in various resources so that it can be able to make greater penetration and reach influencers who will make the content go viral in return.
Customer lifecycle will always enable companies to understand the experience of the customers based on your product as well as enlighten you on the actions to take. Every stage must be arrived at after the customer has taken a specified action. For instance, the action can be signing up, creating proposals, making payments, renewing solutions, and so on.
Many companies make the mistake of not including the “activated user” and the “active customer” stages when they are in the customer cycle designing process. When the company takes activation rates, it will have an easy and better product onboarding and 1st experience and tracking DAU rate will help keep track of the consistency the customers get from value delivering.
Sales funnel will show the company the internal processes that it needs to follow and use in moving prospects from one stage of the funnel, down to the next effectively and efficiently.
Companies like Freemium companies will always focus on the customer lifecycle because everyone can sign up and make payments for the products. Such companies include Dropbox, Slack, and more. There are also companies that sell software that have high prices. They may need sales cycles that are longer. Their implementation will focus more on sales funnel.
Content strategy does not start and come to an end with marketing. The sales team and the customer success team should always make their contribution to the content creation. The marketing team should always plan for content that they are going to use for prospect conversion at the funnel’s end.
Awareness content will make minimum impact on prospects conversion to customers. Even so, companies keep producing awareness content as well as me-too content and they are typically seen as low-quality content.
Educational content will always cut across every level of customer lifecycle as well as the sales funnel. Companies should give this the most focus and treat it as a priority for content marketing.
Handoffs between the teams in a company are vital to the sales process. If there is a smooth handoff of customers from one stage to the other, the chances that they will sign up for the product are very high. When there is also a smooth handoff between the sales team and the customer success team, the chances of the customer renewing will increase.