By Pamela Muldoon published July 4, 2012

How to Truly Develop Content that Supports the Sales Process: Interview with Melissa Harrison

content that supports the sales process, melissa harrisonEarlier this week, I shared part of my conversation with Melissa Harrison, Allée Creative, on advice and tips on how to get organized and focused with your content marketing plan.

When you want to develop a plan, not only do you need to be organized, but you also need to be creative.  Melissa does a great job of sharing some easy-to-implement tips to get started.

Here are 3 highlights from the second part of my conversation with Melissa:

  • Content needs to connect to the sales process:  Understanding your sales process and the number of touch points it takes to convert a prospect into a client can help you with content development.  Create content that connects to your buyer at each of these touch points for education and engagement.
  • Consistency is essential:  If it takes 7 to 10 touches for a prospect to even notice your brand, being consistent with your message is critical.  Consistency is required in brand look, message and sharing with your audience on whichever platforms you are using.
  • You need to choose the right people:  Asking yourself the tough questions will guide you to the answer of who should be implementing content for your organization.  Remembering that content is a big part of your marketing message means putting the right individuals in place that can voice your brand with accuracy and consistency.

There are several ways you can get the interview with Melissa:

You can also hear Melissa speak about how to organize your content marketing plan at Content Marketing World in Columbus, Ohio on September 6.

Pamela:  Of course, we chatted a little bit about this concept of consistency and I want to go back to that because, like I said, I refer to this as the un-sexy part of marketing, but we have to continue those touch points, stay in front of our target audience and our buyers. Tell us a little bit, from your perspective, Melissa, why is consistency so darn important and that process of building the objective for your business and connecting it to consistency. Why do we need to be so concerned with that?

Melissa: Right. Some of it comes down, literally, to the sales process in figuring out… you’re going to be hard pressed to, if you send out a message once, to have that customer or client come back to you and say, “Yep, I’m sold right away. You set up one time, perfect, I’m on board, let’s do business.”

Part of it really comes down to how many touch points do you need to kind of path around your clients and your customers if you’re a new business to kind of give clout to the information that you are knowledgeable about and to prove yourself as an expert, to open eyes to potential customers or clients in the services that you offer, to make them comfortable with the things that you’re talking about and to developing this sense of trust.

It’s very much not about push marketing anymore because everybody is very aware of where they can buy things or where they could get a sales pitch from. What customers and clients want is to be engaged and to have conversations and to see that brands are really caring about them, their clients, their customers and offering great customer service.

So this piece of consistency is a benefit to everybody. It’s a benefit to your customers. It’s a benefit to you, the brand and the business, and from a technical side of things, and this isn’t my area of great expertise, but from a technical side of things if you want to talk about social media and algorithms and all of that business, they’re changing all the time.

So you can’t ever keep up with is my message getting out there and is it at the top of the news feed and all of these things. So if you make it a point to be consistent it helps with planning, it helps strengthen your brand, it helps strengthen your message, it helps develop that trusting relationship with your customers and, ultimately, it gets your message across of all of these different channels because you are consistent and people notice that and pick up on that and then they can share it with their contacts and their friends, as well.

Pamela: Yeah, and it’s such an important part of the conversation. I know often you mention that you work with business owners and tend to fall more into that small business space and a lot of times, because time is such an issue and then the question of who should be actually implementing it, which is another area I want to touch on a little deeper, but when I hear something personally like, “Wow, we do blog post once every three months,” I cringe.

There’s a part of me that just wants to say, then don’t bother. Right? And you don’t want to do that.

Melissa: Who is going to come back every three months and remember that you even have one coming up?

Pamela: Yes. Yes. And so going back, just to kind of recap this process a little bit, so we’re talking about finding just the one, two or handful of strategies that really connect with your audience and doing them really, really well and my guess is, Melissa, that the more well I do this, if that’s a good grammatical way to say it, that I would become more consistent. So there is really a connection between how much I’m doing in terms of platforms and consistency, as well.

Melissa: Definitely, because you’ll get into a rhythm and for a lot of small- to mid-size businesses starting out it’s painful starting out. They’re not sure what to do. They’re waiting for that ROI to be shown to them. But as they’re consistent and they see the engagement and they see the interactions, then it kind of turns into a fun process. That’s what you do, you develop a process that works for you. Something I didn’t mention, I kind of alluded to really talking about choosing the right channels, that’s going to make a difference as far as consistency goes, as well.

So, Pamela, when you say that example about if you’re only blogging once every three months, think about what does great consistency look like for a blog? What does consistency look like for updating your brand Facebook page or your Twitter account? All of those pieces, because in print once a month is fine for a newsletter or for something of that nature. Online, that’s not the case and so you have to think about if you’re consistent in your messaging, consistent with your brand, but also consistent in your timing in all of these different spaces.

Pamela: Yeah, I think that’s such an important part of the conversation and questions to ask and my hope is our audience who’s listening today is that their starting to kind of break through some of that sense of overwhelm and just realizing it’s a very systematic, even very much a process approach, as well as a creativity approach. So one of the things I want to go a little deeper on is the who.

We talk about the resources inside the organization and I believe we have two budgets, Melissa. We have a time budget and a money budget, and at some point they intersect and decisions have to be made.

So who should really be, because it’s kind of the old adage of can you really outsource this or does the business owner have to be the one doing it or the CEO? Who should really be working on the content inside the organization? Or maybe a better way to phrase it is, “How do I as a business owner come to the conclusion on how I get this implemented so that consistency and leverage can happen?”

Melissa: So I think that’s the biggest piece of coming back to that consistency where a lot of times I’ll talk to business owners who are very jazzed about starting some kind of content marketing strategy or putting pieces like this together and they’ll say, “Oh, you know what? This is perfect. So and so is a really good writer. I’m sure they could take care of it, do a couple of posts here and there.”

That’s all well and good because that person may be a good writer and may be able to handle that at first because it’s new and exciting, but then the reality of all of the other pieces of that person’s job take hold and then this tends to be the first piece that gets pushed under the rug and you lose that consistency.

So really establishing a plan and thinking about, honestly, who has the time to do this or can we outsource it or do we want to outsource it or do we want to keep it in-house. Sometimes those non-experts of your business can actually create more engaging content because they’re going to take out all of the marketing speak that the owner or the vice president might be wanting to push into all of that content and really just put things into real words.

One of the advantages of outsourcing some pieces of your content is you get that outside perspective. You get somebody who’s going to create content for you that will ask questions from a consumer standpoint and will let you know if they jump onto your website where information is missing or if they’re on your blog and they look to say, you know, this really isn’t information that I care about, it just sounds like a bunch of selling products through your company.

So that’s one advantage of having somebody that’s kind of outside of the “experts” within the actual organization, because those people can sometimes be too close to the product or service. So they may not know really why customers are interested in what they have to say and they can create too many of those assumptions about why people like you or don’t like you.

But if you do want to look inside your company, some places to start would be with your sales team or your customer service rep, because they’re hearing what your customers are saying. They get those questions and information and complaints and all of that stuff all day long, so tap into those people to figure out how you’re going to create some content around those pieces of information and don’t be afraid to ask you customers what they want.

What do they want to hear? Especially if you’re a small business and you’re thinking about putting out a blog, have some research, some information to back that up. Have you talked to your customers and your clients? Do they want some more information that you’re not currently giving them? So think about those things.

Pamela: I was just going to say I think, too, it’s part of the language conversation when you’re really reaching back out to your clients and customers and you mentioned people not connected directly into the industry as well because there’s something about the way you and I might talk about, even in our space of marketing, sometimes we get in our marketing speak right?

I guess it’s that fine line of positioning as an expert and the good work you do, but also talking in the language that is best served for the audience or how they will search inside the search engines for your content. Is that kind of what I’m hearing as well?

Melissa: Exactly. There’s quite a few times where, even we’ll be guilty of this too, in the company where I’ll have my context specialist putting together a blog post and we’ll read it and we’re all thinking, “Yup, that looks good,” and we kind of give it that once-over or give it to someone outside of the space that we live in all the time and they’ll read it and the questions that will come up sometimes will be like, “Well, I don’t know what this term means or I don’t know what you’re talking about here and you didn’t define it.”

So you have to think of it from the standpoint of you’re providing information for your customer. The content that you create can’t be all about you because the customers don’t live in your space and in what you’re immersed in all day, so you need to be able to help them either solve a problem or give them answers to something that they’re seeking more information on.

They have a need and you want to fulfill that need with that content and so it does. It takes coming outside of that whole marketing-speak business and just getting on their level to use terminology and information that they can understand and that they’re interested in.

Pamela: And that’s how we as individuals are going into our Google or Bing or whatever and we’re going to start searching these terms based on our head. Right? Like what in my mind that I’m searching for or the answer I’m looking for and that’s where, of course, working with professionals to get to the conversation can be very important. Then once you’ve understood what the audience was looking for, then, of course, implementing.

So again, if I’m hearing you right, Melissa, there’s no silver bullet or right or wrong answer. Each organization has to really answer these questions specifically for themselves based on strategy, consistency and, of course, their two budgets of money and time. Right?

Melissa: Well, right and so it is. It’s kind of a bummer because the people who want that perfect answer, it really comes down to what your individual business needs are. Sometimes that could be a combination of maybe you need somebody to come and just help you strategize, set your plan, set your content calendars and then you may have the resources to actually physically put that content out there and that’s perfect.

For others, they might need the whole ball of wax. Someone to come in, strategize, meet with your team and then also manage those accounts for you or do some ghost writing and then maybe you just are able and capable of doing it on your own and you have that time and the budget and resources to do that and that’s perfect, as well. Content, unfortunately, is not one-size-fits-all and that’s kind of what makes it all exciting and painful at the same time.

Pamela: It offers the challenge and the opportunity all kind of in one.

As we kind of wind down into our conversation, because I know time management and process is such a key element and strength that you bring to your clients and the way that you work with content and so we chatted a little bit about content calendars and kind of the formulation and process of putting out content consistently, but do you have any other time management or techniques that if I’m listening I could probably start implementing today?

We don’t want to get too caught up in tools and software, but some other techniques that you found have been really beneficial as you’ve helped your clients or maybe even that you’ve implemented in your own company?

Melissa: Sure. Content calendars obviously is the biggie and even that in and of itself can take some time management because you have to set them up, so it does take a chunk of time to do those if you can carve out time where you’re going to allow yourself to put those pieces together.

For example, for our company blog we put together our content calendar each month and so we don’t look out further than one month and we do that for a multitude of reasons, but that way close to the end of each month I’ll sit down and … we brainstorm some information and content categories and then we fill out the content calendar for the next month.

That’s one way to do it, is just to carve out pieces of time. You’ll get to know how much time you need. It might be 30 minutes, it might be an hour, it might be half a day, just depending on how much you’re going to plan out in advance. But the other things that are really helpful to do is to know your content categories inside and out.

This comes back to when I’m talking to clients and I’m saying, “What is it that you want to be known for and what are those categories that you’re going to talk about in your content?” Know what those are because a lot of times we have clients that come to us, or we’ll do this as well, and say, “Oh, my gosh, I have this really great idea. We’re going to put this out on YouTube video. It’s going to be fabulous,” but it has nothing to do with business goals. It doesn’t have anything to do with what the content categories are and so for sure it might be a great idea, but can we hone that in to what those content categories are. So it helps you weed out all of the ideas and kind of funnel them into those key areas that you want to be known for. So know those very well.

I actually am a big user still of social bookmarking sites. I use them for a bunch of different reasons, but one great reason I use them for is you can set tags and categories and all that good stuff. It helps you figure out what content that I could be producing or that my clients could be producing.

Another way to kind of research content is also Google Alert, keeping tabs on your competition, keeping tabs on keywords or phrases that you want to be known for and looking at what’s already happening content-wise online, whether you have something to add to the conversation or maybe you want to go the opposite route and talk about something completely different.

So, those are ways to kind of get ideas for where your content can come from. We do use, for a lot of our clients and for ourselves as well, some third-party applications like HootSuite or TweetDeck, where you can schedule some of those posts, your Facebook posts or your Twitter posts and things like that.

I’m not a huge advocate for auto-posting or auto-DMs or anything like that because I do want to make sure that our clients are being real and conversational, engaging and human and it’s not just a bunch of computers talking back and forth at each other. However, a good example for how we use those applications are if you know a blog post is going to go up on a Tuesday morning you can schedule that out.

If you know that there’s a couple of industry articles that you’ve read throughout the week that you think your audience would benefit from reading as well you could schedule those, as well. So we’re not scheduling things like organic conversation and we’re still keeping an eye on those and having those things come from us directly and very organic in that way, but there are ways that you can use some of those tools to just help from that time management standpoint.

It’s very helpful because that’s the one thing where people say, “Well, gosh what happens if someone has to take a vacation for a week and we’ve been so consistent with all of our pieces?” There’s help. You can schedule some of that stuff out and that kind of brings me back to my last point, too, is it’s okay to ask for help. Acknowledge where your strengths lie, acknowledge where your weaknesses are, figure out what you might need help with.

It could be a team effort, maybe there’s a couple of you that are able to work on content and someone’s in charge of it Monday, Wednesday, Friday and the other person is in charge of Tuesday, Thursday. However you want to kind of divvy the tasks out. Along with asking for help, a lot of companies and brands, us included, use guest bloggers or guest posters or having interviews with people in your industry.

Bring more people into the conversation, again, so it’s not all about you. I always say, two heads are better than one. It’s just like brainstorming, you’re going to get ideas and more information and beefier content if you have more people and invite them into the conversation. 

Pamela: It just makes for more interesting content because you get so many viewpoints and opportunities and, of course, now you’re leveraging relationships and leveraging more opportunities for your brand and awareness with strategic partners, kind of like what I’m doing right here, interviewing you on Content Marketing 360 Radio Show. Right?

Melissa: Exactly.

Pamela:  I love it. I love when we can actually walk the talk, Melissa. It’s fantastic.

Well, I know we have uncovered a lot of ground today and I’m so grateful that we were able to connect with that process and, hopefully, today we also eliminated some of that overwhelm with some of the conversation. I want to make sure that our audience knows how to connect with you so that they can learn more about content calendars, time management and just connect with Allée Creative all together, so what is the best way for us to do that with you?

Melissa: You bet. You can visit our website, which is alleecreative.com and that’s A-L-L-E-E creative.com. I’m also very active on Twitter. My Twitter handle is @alleecreative. We have a company Facebook page, /alleecreative. I’m hearing a trend here. Basically, everywhere you can find us on social media is some kind of Allee Creative handle. I’m also on LinkedIn personally. You can just look for Melissa Harrison there, but all of those links are also on our website, so if you get to our website you’ll be able to find us in the various spaces and I welcome questions and conversations and feedback because that’s what it’s all about.

Pamela:   Absolutely. Start the conversation. Melissa is a wonderful conversationalist online since that’s how I connect with her and we are excited to see you are one of the speakers coming up at Content Marketing World here in Ohio as well in September.

Melissa:   I am. I am super jazzed to go out to Ohio and speak. It will be fun and I’m excited to just partake in some of the sessions, as well. I think it’s such a great speaker lineup this year, so it will be a lot of fun.

Pamela:  Yes, it will definitely be a great time and I appreciate you taking time out of your busy day, your busy week and having this conversation with us at Content Marketing 360 Radio Show. Melissa, thank you so much. I know that our audience will take away some wonderful tips today and I appreciate you participating. It’s all about that conversation and you did a fantastic job sharing with us today and we appreciate that.

Melissa:  Thank you. Thanks for having me again.

Author: Pamela Muldoon

Pamela Muldoon is President of Next Stage Media Group, a marketing firm that merges traditional and digital strategies to grow business with a specialty in audio content. She is also host of Content Marketing 360, an online radio show featuring interviews with top marketing professionals from around the world. Learn more at www.nextstagemediagroup.com and follow Pamela on Twitter @pamelamuldoon & @NextStageMedia.

Other posts by Pamela Muldoon

  • http://humanwebsite.com.my/ Kent

    One great point that make me wake up “Content needs to connect to the sales process” which I should have done long time ago while blogging for no purpose.