Sam Richter and Scott Severson

Sales and Marketing during COVID-19: A Conversation with Sam Richter and Scott Severson [VIDEO]

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How can strategic content marketing support your sales team now that traditional sales venues have been disrupted by the coronavirus?

That was the topic when Brandpoint President Scott Severson was interviewed by Sam Richter, the internationally known author, speaker and specialist in innovative social selling and sales intelligence methodology. Their conclusion? While trade shows, face-to-face networking and in-person meetings may be on hold indefinitely, well-planned and relevant content offers an alternate method for nurturing new leads and enabling meaningful conversations.

“My guess is, at your company your sales and prospecting goals have not changed (due to COVID),” Richter tells viewers in his intro. “But the way you used to hit those numbers is not only not going to work, it’s not even possible right now. So alignment between marketing and sales is probably more relevant that at any time in history.”

Other points discussed by the two execs:

Content marketing offers value in place of spammy sales tactics

Today’s customers are weary of being bombarded with irrelevant sales pitches, Severson notes, but they respond positively when offered engaging, personalized, highly targeted information they can really use.

Think PESO: Comprehensive content marketing includes four elements

Severson recommends a PESO strategy that optimizes four kinds of content — paid, earned, shared and owned — because it’s likely to reach a broader span of your target market. But the most crucial is owned, the content you buy or create in order to draw audiences and build credibility on your website and social media sites, in speeches, in print collateral and through other strategic channels. He notes 71% of potential customers begin their customer journey through unbranded searches aimed at solving their problems, and the right owned media can appear in those searches to offer answers and position your company as a great solution.

“If you don’t have great content answering those questions people type into Google, you’re invisible to three quarters of your potential audience,” he observes.

Earned media is valuable but tricky

Severson also recommends earned media as a marketing tool, but warns it’s difficult to achieve because you must convince objective news sources to feature or mention your company. “Those placements are seen as highly credible and highly valuable … but you really don’t have any control over the message,” he explains. “I always recommend, for earned, to go after the low-hanging fruit, like maybe a couple targeted publications that are going to be really valuable to you.”

Paid media offers credibility, control and speed

Severson discusses paid media options such as Google Ads, promoted posts and Brandpoint’s “Expert Series” through which on-staff journalists interview key people from the client side to create informative news articles. The client selects the topics and approves the content before it’s offered to major news organizations for publication. “It’s not an ad, it’s not purely owned media because obviously the L.A. Times has placed the article, it’s been syndicated,” Richter notes. “It’s really in between, so we gain the credibility, the objectivity and yet we control the message.”

[Read More: Why Cost-Per-Lead Generation Campaigns Are Important During COVID-19]

Salespeople should share their company’s content

The execs concluded with a discussion of the role salespeople should take in sharing content to help boost sales, effectively adding the “S” to the PESO strategy.

Richter recommends team members know enough about their company’s portfolio of content to send pieces to potential customers with personal notes such as “Here’s an article that touches on some of the value propositions we talked about.” Taking that step could build trust, inspire talking points for further discussions and move customers further down the sales funnel without the need for face-to-face interactions, he notes.

“Think of shared as really the amplifier for all your other tactics,” Severson adds. “Where salespeople really have a big impact … is contacting the people they want to influence by sharing quality, relevant content.”

Sales and marketing must now work even closer

Severson recommends sales and marketing pros sit down with every new customer to thoroughly evaluate his target customer and the route taken on his buying journey. Then each department should contribute to the ensuing content marketing strategy. “About 12% of us like to begin our customer journey by talking to a salesperson,” he notes. “How do we take the 88% of those who don’t want to begin their journey with sales, create relevant content and get in front of them in a way that’s relevant and valuable to them? Both (sales and marketing) need to be at the same level to start this process.”

[Read More: 6 Key Ways Sales and Marketing Can Collaborate On Content]

Spending changes may be in order

“Take some trade show budget and use these strategies,” Richter recommends. “Otherwise I don’t know how you’re going to get in front of those that actually want to hear from you. Providing value to the other person is probably the closest way you can replicate that trade show experience. You as a salesperson need to ensure this kind of content is being created and shared with your prospects.”

Learn more about how content marketing can equip your sales team with what they need to drive results and generate leads during this difficult time. 

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