Why Interactive Content Is Transforming the Sales Funnel
May 24, 2017 | Jessica Mehring
The sales funnel continues to transform with emerging technologies. At this point, probably every B2B marketer has seen this stat (or one like it): B2B buyers complete 57% of their research on a product before speaking to a sales representative.
That statistic is actually a bit outdated, now, though you will still find it quoted everywhere. What’s changed since that stat gave us inbound-tunnel-vision? SeriusDecisions’ 2015 B2B Buying Study sheds some light …
- The way buyers consume content and interact with vendors is not linear, it’s episodic.
- The higher the price point of an offering, the higher the number of interactions between the buyer and the vendor.
- More than half of the time, buyers interact with sales reps at the beginning of the buying journey.
- The highest level of interaction for all buying scenarios occurs during the education phase of the buying journey.
What does that mean for you? Embrace the change. Buyers need content to help them make their decisions – but they also need interaction. Content helps bridge the gap between digital experiences and sales teams, but not all content is created equal. Interactive content is a bridge that helps both buyers and sellers.
Interactive Content Reveals Important Insights About Our Customers
Cutting-edge companies have embraced this shift to digital/inbound/content (whatever you want to call it), rather than resisting it by maintaining old techniques and hoping it works. Data from digital footprints reveals important details — when a lead participates in a webinar, “likes” a piece of content on social media, or submits answers to a quiz, they’re sending us a signal that they’re interested in our offering.
According to the Harvard Business Review, “Such data points, when collected and analyzed, can enable marketers and sales teams topinpoint where prospective customers are in their exploration — and when and how they can step in to engage them.” Consider all the information Blackbaud gathers about their customers with this online assessment. The company gets insight into the customer’s fundraising revenue, constituent numbers, the most effective fundraising channels, and even their expenses.
In a sales funnel dependent on targeted engagement, teams need to broaden their perspective and embrace data-driven opportunities. Gerry Murray, a research manager at IDC’s CMO Advisory Service told HBR that if companies “are still training salespeople on the old model, you are going to struggle to connect with buyers.” In order to continue to accelerate growth, companies need to roll with the changing habits of buyers.
Interactive Content Empowers the Sales Team
Today’s reality is that buyers are not only more actively involved in the sales process, they’re taking the lead in it. Buyers take the initiative to search for publicly available information and talk to their peers about products and services before they buy. They use search engines, explore vendor websites, subscribe to and read marketing emails, attend events, etc. When they speak with a sales rep, they know what information they still need. They have questions they still need answers to.
Interactive content gives sales teams the opportunity to align their sales call agenda with what customers actually want to know .A recent HubSpot report found that there is a huge disconnect between what sales reps want to cover in the first sales call, and what customers want to discuss. Armed with insight gathered from interactive content, sales reps can quickly fine-tune their sales conversations to hit the most important points for customers. Interactive content is the not-so-secret weapon of strong sales development. With higher engagement and deeper data than static alternatives, it’s the best way to motivate leads down the sales funnel and invigorate your sales process.
Here are some other ways interactive content helps modern sales reps help their customers.
Interactive content offers personalization opportunities at every turn. With assessments or interactive infographics, marketers prompt their leads with questions that pave an individualized path. It matches the unique needs of each reader with their best options for growth, just like an in-person conversation. These kinds of unique experiences increase the chances of a positive buying experience. Research from Accenture indicates that 75% of consumers are more likely to buy from retailers that recognize them, provide relevant recommendations, and remember them. It’s not just the case with B2C sales, either. B2B marketers experience 40-45% opt-in rates with interactive content, making them a best-bet for any sales-driven company.
High Conversion Rates
The right interactions with consumers bring sales teams closer to their quotas, setting them up for slam dunks. Interactive content has been found to convert 2x better than static content, giving marketers more opportunities to score those leads and tip them into the MQL bucket to send to sales. Sales teams can also use interactive content during their sales conversations to demonstrate more value in concrete terms to potential buyers. Blackbaud, for example, reached 133% of its sales quota by using interactive content in just this way. That means not only is interactive content converting more visitors to leads, but it can also help convert more leads to sales. What salesperson wouldn’t like those odds?
Better Search Engine Ranking
Better search engine ranking means more customers find you. It saves you from those dreaded cold calls. It’s a good thing! And interactive content has a positive impact on this as well. According to Neil Patel’s notes from the 2015 Search Marketing Expo, interactive content is correlated with higher ranking sites. Patel believes that this correlation may be an indication of how user experience plays a role in search optimization – but let’s be frank. User experience plays a role in everything in business. The more helpful you can be to a user, the greater the chance that user will stick around and buy.
Increased Social Sharing
Social media marketing has fast replaced advertising as the way to break into new markets. Interactive content yields a 15% share rate on social media, amplifying lead generation. Salespeople can increase their sales numbers by capitalizing on social media to explore and fortify relationships. By sharing interactive content, they crack through the invisible barrier between companies and consumers, complementing existing marketing strategy to their own benefit.
Improved Experience for Customers
Customers are asking for more interactive content. Providing it to them is an easy way to improve the customer experience, which makes sales conversations go much more smoothly. Think about this: Buzzfeed receives over 200 million unique visitors per month – their audience spending more than 100 million hours each month consuming the site’s content – and much of that is driven by their quizzes and interactive content. And this demand for interactive content is not solely in the realm of B2C. DemandGen reported in their 2015 Content Preferences Survey that B2B buyers prefer to consume interactive content, too, and they highly recommend that other marketers use more of it.
An overwhelming 91% of study participants agreed or strongly agreed that they prefer more interactive/visual content that can be accessed on demand. This was up from 88% in 2014. In fact, 74% of buyers surveyed for that study said they have less time to view content than they did a year ago, indicating that shorter, interactive formats will provide better experiences.
Even More Ways to Use Data
Interactive content supplies treasure troves of data to salespeople. With each answered question from a lead, you clarify the needs and interests of your audience, both collectively and individually. Is there something your sales team needs to find out about your prospects? Weave relevant questions into your content, and your sales team can learn as much about each lead as each prospect learns about your business.
Here’s more detailed information about how Blackbaud did it with assessments and calculators. And here’s how ServiceNow did it with an assessment. Data empowers sales teams to target optimized leads who are ready to buy. Meanwhile, your marketing team can continue to nurture individuals who need more time down the sales funnel without a pushy sales call. Data-based segmentation meets buyers where they are in their buying journey. And it makes sales emails a dream, allowing for easy personalization while saving your team time.
If you’re a marketer reading this, pat yourself on the back. You’ve already got more trust from customers than your counterparts in sales. If you’re a salesperson reading this, sorry. Research shows that information from marketing is more trusted than information from sales. But here’s the good news, salespeople: You can actually use this to your benefit!
There is no hard and fast rule that says sales reps can’t use marketing content in their sales process. Interactive content is an opportunity for you to use that more-trusted marketing content to help customers in the sales conversation.
Help customers …
- Evaluate their situation with an assessment
- Walk through the data with an interactive infographic
- Calculate their ROI with an online calculator. Here’s an example from HubSpot
As marketing gains more and more responsibility for delivering business results, it makes sense that many of us are thinking about ways our content can support the sales process. With interactive content, top-performing marketers are providing their sales team with better opportunities for content personalization; awesome insight into buyer profiles and preferences; better conversion rates; and increased social shares. Check out our guide, Generate the Leads Sales is Demanding, to learn how you can start qualifying sales-ready leads that turn into deals.