6 ways to make the most of your blog throughout the sales cycle

Posted by Ramin Assemi on Wed, Jan 27, 2016

Most companies have realized that a blog can be a powerful inbound lead generator. But it has the potential to be so much more.

Many of us are so focused on acquisition and growth, that we aren't taking advantage of our blogs throughout the entire sales process.

Here are the different ways your blog can help you sell, from prospecting all the way to making upsells.

Prospecting

1. Learn what makes your audience tick

One of the underlying benefits of blogging is the opportunity to learn what interests your audience and how you can add value for them.

Make a list of five topics that touch on different pain points your brand solves. Come up with two different headlines for each pain point, leaving you with ten article ideas.

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Get creative and have some fun with your ideation. What topics have been top of mind, what do you want to write about?

For example, we share useful information related to sales, conversions, relationships, sales pipeline management, and startups. We’re not shy in giving away our secrets. We want our audience to be successful in driving sales. If they aren’t, they have no need for us.

Test a few different formatting options such as lists, essays, videos, or images to learn what performs best. Worry less about making them perfect and more about making them actionable and valuable. Focus on getting them published and delivered to the right audiences.

After publishing 5–10 posts, measure specific KPIs that will help determine which topics work best. KPIs include:

  • Number and value of comments: see which post sparked the most conversation, which left visitors wanting more
  • Number of emails about a topic: more often than commenting, our readers will email in with feedback, questions, and stories
  • Pageviews for each post: for determining which headline drove the most interest
  • Time spent on each post: for depth of interest, value added   
  • Bounce rate: for the most likely ways to keep visitors on your site
  • Number of social shares: if it’s interesting enough to share, you’ve added value
  • Number of email addresses collected: for potential leads interested in your brand
  • Number of trial signups or demo requests: for qualified leads

To measure pageviews, time spent, and bounce rate, set up Google Analytics for your blog. Once set up, go to: Behavior → Site Content → All Pages.

For social shares, go to: Acquisition → All Traffic → Sources/Medium.

For email addresses and trial signups, set up conversion goals in Google Analytics. This step is slightly more complicated. Check out this helpful video from KISSmetrics.  

2. Determine where your leads are hiding

Your blog analytics will tell you where your audience finds and consumes information. Use the GA instructions above to a look at what social channels drive the most traffic to your blog and website. Let this lead your social strategy—where you put more time and resources.

If Facebook is driving far more traffic than Twitter, double down on Facebook. If that’s the case, consider promoting your most popular piece of content to a relevant audience with a paid boost.

Use Google Analytics to learn about any forums, websites, or newsletters that have linked to your site or content. These are opportunities to build relationships with relevant outlets; they’re sources for qualified leads. Go to: Acquisition → All Traffic → Referrals to identify websites, blogs and forums driving traffic.

For email newsletters, go to: Acquisition → All Traffic → Campaigns. If you don’t recognize the name of the campaign or newsletter, try a quick Google search.

Lead generation

3. Capture email addresses from interested visitors

You’ve successfully been interesting enough to capture the attention of a potential lead, congratulations! Now the fun starts.

Since you have their attention, use pop-ups and scroll boxes to collect their email address in exchange for future content. Here are some examples of brands effectively communicating value added in return for an email:

Invision:

successful-scroll-box-min

In Invision’s scroll box, they lead with their one million subscribers to validate the value of their content. The box also looks different from most blogs, which you’ll notice below.

Help Scout:

popular-scroll-box-min

Help Scout also validates the quality of their content with a number while relying on simple, non-intrusive design.

GrooveHQ:

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Yet again, Groove leads with how many subscribers they have, along with the exact topic you’ll receive posts about. If you’re on Groove’s startup journey blog, it’s likely because you want to know about how they are growing their business. They hook their visitors by promising helpful tips for growth.

We've tested both static bars and pop-ups and found that popups are much more effective at capturing emails. SumoMe's Welcome Mat collected exponentially more emails than the sidebar option. However, as a team, we decided against the use of popups because it ultimately made the experience for our website visitors worse.

To uphold a quality experience for your visitors, only deliver the type of information you promised them. Don’t try to make a hard sell if you promised tips and tactics or else you’ll be marked as spam real quick. Focus on building a relationship first, selling later.

If you don’t have content like a newsletter, ebook or academy to share, use this opportunity to learn about your captive audience. Present them with a survey asking about their interests: what type of tools they use, what topics interest them, etc. Then use this intel to drive your future content strategy.

Lead nurturing

4. Build trust for deeper relationships with leads and customers

Now that you have a captive audience consistently returning to your blog, keep their attention and build their trust.

By giving away all our sales secrets, we’re letting our audience know that we care about their success and that we practice what we preach. It demonstrates that our team is genuine and authentic; that there’s real people behind our brand who are here to help them.

We’re also big on encouraging one-on-one email communication. We found that email allows for more relevant and real interactions than public blog comments. That’s why Steli always shares his email address when he speak at events and in many of our videos. We enjoy getting questions and comments from readers and viewers. We genuinely want to know how we can help.

The insights gathered in these email exchanges almost always lead to a new content idea that our entire audience can learn from. That one customer or visitor who emailed in probably isn’t the only one with that story, question, or piece of feedback. Here’s an example of an email we’ve received recently:

Hiten/Steli,

Customer of Close.io, listener of your podcast here. Not sure if it was a direct tip you guys gave or an amalgamation of several, but I sent out an email to a customer just after they signed up and just got right to the point. Something to the effect of:

“Hi <name>,

Thanks for signing up. I took a look at your reports (they’re great BTW) but I think we can make them even better. <=== I showed that I actually know who they are and what they do

Are you free tomorrow at 2pm for a quick 15 chat?” <=== Suggest a day & time, don’t be open ended”

They responded immediately, we had our call, and 7 days later, just signed an annual contract of $60k / year.

I’m going to give Steli 51% of the credit and Hiten 49% on account of being a Close.io customer :)

But seriously, thanks guys, you empower the rest of us.

This success story has nothing to do with our product, but rather, the content that we’ve shared, which is exactly why we do what we do. We’re not just pushing our product or service with this approach, we’re solving a pain point for our visitors.

5. Let your leads know how your product solves their problems

Use your blog to educate your audience on use cases and benefits your product offers. If you’re writing about a pain point your audience experiences, include a customer’s story in your post. Show your offering in action so they can see how they can apply it to solve their problem. Kind of like how I did above. ;)

Mention, for example, asked Customer.io (a Mention customer) to contribute to their academy on improving your media monitoring skills. Although the post provided actionable tips beyond “use Mention,” the author highlighted how they use Mention to better communicate with their audience with this screengrab:

monitor-social-media-mention-min

Another option is to be more direct and use your blog to state the value you’re offering with a call to sign up. Check out how Buffer is currently putting this to work on their blog:

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Retention and upsells

6. Highlight added benefits of your offering

Once your leads become customers, they’ll expect to learn more about how your offering can help them from your content.

Use frequently asked questions, visitor emails, and blog comments to drive this content. Leverage use cases. Is one of your customers using your offering in a totally unique way? Write a blog post about it!

One of our case studies, for example, features Foursquare. They had to make 16 mouse clicks to log a single call when they were using Salesforce. In Close.io, it took them only 2 clicks—14 clicks might not sound like much, but if you’re dealing with 20, 30 or 100 reps who make 100 to 150 dials a day, that’s a huge productivity gain. What’s more, because of the nature of their business, thy don’t just use Close.io for sales, but also for account management by tapping into the power and extensibility of our API.

Another great example of how a customer is using our offering in a totally unique way is Patrick McKenzie’s (@patio11) detailed breakdown of how he used our inside sales software for his self-funded software business. (Check out his post Systematizing sales with software and processes.)

Create case studies and blog posts around particular industries, fields, and roles, then deliver this content to relevant customers.

Let’s say you have a customer who works in fashion and found a new way to use your product to make their jobs easier with your premium features. Share this story with your other customers in the fashion industry. Clearly explain how they can apply the same methodologies and make it easy for them to buy the added features. The result is a helpful solution they can put to work and a more engaged customer.

Have fun with it!

The best part about your blog is that it’s yours! Write about the topics your audience wants to learn more about, but do it in your own style. Your blog is your chance to show off your brand’s personality and to get your leads to like you for who you are. Make sure to let us know how it goes!

    
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