In today’s buying environment, the traditional approach to marketing no longer works. Consumers want to have more information earlier on in the sales process, well before the initial contact with a sales rep. For businesses, this requires changing the way they think about and deliver content.

According to CEB, 57 percent of the purchasing decision is complete before a seller is contacted. If most customers have already researched their options before they connect with you, the trick is to deliver content that engages prospects early on in the sales funnel in a way that sets you apart from the competition.

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Storytelling Vs. Sales Content

Content that builds brand awareness is geared toward the top and middle of the sales funnel. It’s more about storytelling and establishing your brand in the minds of consumers. According to a Demand Gen Report, 47 percent of buyers view three to five pieces of content before engaging with a sales rep, so the storytelling phase is a crucial step in building consumer confidence.

On the other hand, sales content is focused on driving conversions and turning prospects into customers. This is bottom-of-the-funnel content that highlights your products and services more directly, as opposed to content used to build trust.

The Importance of Storytelling

It’s not only consumer choice that has multiplied; online channels on which content appears seem to be in. Websites, social media platforms, blogs, microblogs, content curation platforms, and review platforms are on the rise.

This relentless noise of content is making it increasingly difficult for companies to capture meaningful attention. That’s where storytelling comes in.

Consumers want choice, but they also need to feel emotionally connected to a brand, and effective story telling can achieve this. This emotionally charged content does a much better job of cutting through the noise and resonating with people that relate to your brand.

The Benefits of Storytelling

Up until now, business storytelling typically consisted of recounting your company history and how the business evolved into what it is today. While this story is interesting, it doesn’t do a great job of motivating action. As a result, businesses today are focusing on using storytelling to communicate their values, beliefs and personality instead.

While your story and personality might not appeal to everyone, it will appeal to the right people, who are much more likely to become loyal customers and advocates for your brand.

Storytelling is more memorable, relatable and engaging, all of which increase the emotional impact of your content and encourage sharing. To do this, there are a number of steps you need to take:

  • Create content topics relevant to your buyers, and answer questions they have early on in the buying process.
  • Optimize content for search engines to drive click-throughs.
  • Use your company’s blog as a tool for building your brand.
  • Identify the social media channels your target audience spends time on, and schedule regular posts.
  • Use email newsletters to drive awareness and web traffic.
  • Create a variety of content types, from videos, quizzes, and list articles, to social media infographics and longer-form content.

Great storytelling doesn’t focus on the key benefits of a product; it’s more about creating meaningful connections with people. In a nutshell, it’s not about selling your products; it’s about selling yourself.

Take time to tell the complete story of why you do what you do. Why did your company start? What makes you different? What do you believe in and disagree with? Your story should show why your business is different from the rest.

Developing Sales Content

Once you’ve demonstrated your helpfulness, expertise, and personality – without the hard sell – prospects are going to be more comfortable with your brand. But there are still a few more steps you need to take to encourage people to buy from you.

You have to convince people that buying from you is the smart choice, which means providing more information to remove any doubts that your company is the right fit. This content has to be more than just an infographic, a blog piece, or a social media post. Now’s the time to deliver long-form, focused content.

Here are best types of content to move prospects down the funnel:

  • Answers to top sales questions. Find out the most common sales-related questions from your sales team and publish answers on your site. An FAQ section is a good start. Webinars are also useful for confronting key customer issues.
  • Evidence-based content. Reviews, testimonials, and ratings will strengthen your credibility. Around 88 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations3. Real data showing the value of your product or service is also a powerful motivator.
  • Case studies and white papers. Addressing the concerns of potential customers just before they’re ready to buy can be enough to encourage them to take the next step. Even if it’s not enough to convert one customer, it may just be enough to warm up other potential leads.
  • Questionnaires and self-assessments. These can be enough to convince people that you have their interests at heart, and can solve their problems. They’re also useful for qualifying leads even further, so you can contact them at a later stage to close the deal.
  • Email newsletters. Around 77 percent of consumers prefer to receive promotional messages via email4. When a lead is close to purchasing, it’s crucial to emphasize how the customer will benefit from your solution, and how your solution differentiates you as a vendor. You can’t always close a deal on the first attempt, so it’s important to keep in touch with subscribers with regular, helpful information.

The Bottom Line

To develop content that supports sales, you need to reach your target audience with a range of content that builds brand awareness and sets you apart from the competition. It means using storytelling to help people identify with your brand on a more emotional level. It’s about building your reputation, before pushing bottom-of-the-funnel content to the right people at the right time.

Your content strategy needs to start conversations with buyers well before they connect with you. This approach will not only drive more engagement and capture more leads, it can also transform your sales process.