This post contains older information, but has been left up for historical reasons. For more up-to-date information, please see our Lead Generation Hub .
As an internet marketing advisor at HubSpot responsible for helping our prospective clients buy HubSpot's Inbound Marketing Tools and Internet Marketing Training , it's critical for me to gain credibility and demonstrate expertise during the sales process.
The challenge is that not every prospect has the 400 hours required for me to impart my years of hard-won internet marketing experience onto them. Actually, none have that much time. And I don't really want to spend that much time before someone buys either.
But, I do invest a lot of 1 on 1 time educating potential clients about keyword research , link building , launching a business blog , building a blog readership , landing page creation and optimization , marketing analytics, social media , lead intelligence , content management and closed-loop marketing . All the stuff that's necessary to successfully generate business online.
My blog and the HubSpot blog have really helped me educate prospects and build credibility.
The numbers don't lie. But, here's some antecdotal evidence and examples of how I have used blogs to move my sales process along.
1. Subscribers Sell Themselves.
Sometimes, by the time I talk to one of our blog subscribers, they know what they want, know why they need it and know that HubSpot provides it. They are ready to buy . These people have typically struggled for some time trying to figure all this stuff out on their own, they've paid expensive consultants to do it for them; and/or they've struggled hobbling together a bunch of expensive solutions to accomplish the same thing HubSpot provides in one integrated marketing platform. These educated buyers have spent their time reading through the HubSpot website, reading and commenting on our blog posts, attending our internet marketing webinars , downloading our internet marketing kit and reading our online marketing case studies . Then, they usually request an internet marketing review of their website .
You see... marketing does a great job for our sales team. They do a lot of the education for us. Last week, Betsy Davison, cofounder of ArtId , a very slick ecommerce website builder for artists and an avid reader of our blog and a frequent webinar attendee sent Mike Volpe an email describing what their challenges were and asking whether we could help. She already knew she wanted our help since she had been reading our blog for a long time. So, after a pretty quick call with her and one other call with her technical lead, she signed up so that we could help her with SEO, improve her PPC performance, improve their group art blog , better monitor what marketing activities are generating conversions and refine her blogging strategy.
Another example. I received a call today from Keith Kenner, a Hiawassee, GA realtor . He's been reading our blog and he said, "Just by putting the suggestions in place that I've read from your blog and your free SEO tool , I've increased my traffic by 12.5%. You guys are the real deal."
I've had about 15 conversations today. Most of them start out in a similar way.
2. Answering Questions with Blog Posts.
At the other extreme, there are lots of prospects who aren't really "researchers". They are the camels that need to be led to water. Then, you need to splash them in the face for them to get the idea. They are best educated through conversations.
I have a current prospect, who will probably not buy HubSpot. She started doing a little bit of research because she wanted a content management system and to update the design of her website. We can provide both of those. But, so can many other companies.
The only good reason for her to sign up with us would be if she can committ the time to doing ongoing keyword research, blogging and link building so that her website actually generates leads, not just looks pretty. Otherwise, she should just find someone that can build her a better brochureware website. Last week, she sent me a list of questions and a proposal from some other company. I sent her back an email that basically pointed out the differences between what they are providing and what we are providing and why she might choose us and why she might choose them. The email consisted of a lot of links to my blog posts and relevant HubSpot blog posts pointing out that to be succcessful online, it takes a committment of time; that their solution would most likely not generate leads for her in a cost effective manner using PPC; that she could manage ppc more effectively in house ; and that our solution would teach her how to build online marketing assets that keep generating leads month after month . She spent the weekend reading all of the posts. She still hasn't decided, but she complimented me on being extremely thorough in helping her make an informed decision.
I've invited her to write guest posts on my blog to see if she has what it takes to make herself successful at inbound internet marketing.
Which brings us to...
3. Invite Prospects to Write Guest Blog Posts.
Many times when I call a prospect, it is not the right time for them to invest in their internet marketing strategy. Many times when I reach out to a prospect, they raise lots and lots of objections of why they shouldn't, can't or won't invest in their internet marketing strategy. Some are valid. Most are not.
Usually, when I sense a lot of resistance, I take a step back and start asking them more about their business. Most people love to talk about their business. If I can tell that they have something interesting to say, and I think they might make good bloggers, I don't give up on them yet. And I certainly don't try to accelerate the sales process too fast. Usually, what I do is say something like, "It seems like you have great wisdom to share and a lot of lessons learned that would be relevant to a lot of people if you shared them. I often invite interesting people to write guest blog posts on my weblog. Since I have several hundred RSS subscribers and several thousand email subscribers, it's great exposure. I also usually work with them to figure out some good keywords, so that when I link to their website from the post, it assists their SEO effort."
Most people really appreciate my gesture. About half of them take me up on it. The ones that do learn quite a few things and can make an informed decision on whether to invest the time and money in an inbound marketing strategy using a business blog.
Ray Schavone, founder of Central MA Brew It Yourself Business , Deja Brew, is a good example. I met Ray several years ago at a networking event and we never really connected. I sent an email blast out to my email list with a link to my " how to generate leads blog ". He found the " write a guest blog post " link and requested to write a guest blog post. He wrote a great post about starting a brew it yourself business . After some back and forth over email asking Ray about his goals and then meeting with Ray and explaining how HubSpot could help his business, he told me "It's not a question of IF, it's a question of WHEN" he will sign up for HubSpot.
Some people tell me they don't know how they'd do this and still stay on topic for their blog. But, there's lots of ways to think about it. For example, HubSpot works with quite a few web design and development and online marketing firms. They're customers. They refer business. Sometimes it makes sense for us to introduce them to other clients so they can help them. Inviting one of these firms to write a guest post about internet marketing certainly makes sense. If you're a real estate attorney , you should be inviting mortgage brokers, realtors, home inspectors, insurance providers, etc to write guest blog posts.
4. Highlight Your Client's Success. They'll Send It To Their Mom (and Everyone Else).
Rick Roberge, my sales coach does this really well. With permission, when his clients are doing really well, he'll write a blog post about them. Here's a post he wrote about Joe Kuptsas and Dale Shadbegian , owner of GoodFellas Construction and a HubSpot client. Joe's mom is now an avid reader and commenter on Rick's blog. She sent the post to a bunch of people. Since I was responsible for making the original connection between Dale and Rick, I also sent the link around to a bunch of people. You can see the number of comments on that post is pretty impressive. An equally impressive number of people read it and congratulated Joe and complimented Rick.
I'm not sure there's really a better way to cause word of mouth. Not only is Joe and Joe's mom telling the world that Rick helped her son become a successful salesperson, so are the rest of us who were a small part in the process.
5. Ask Your Prospects for Feedback in the Comments.
Jame Ervin was shopping for marketing automation tools. She wrote up her opinion about a bunch of different marketing automation products on her blog. Although we don't - in the strictest sense - fall into the "marketing automation" bucket, she included HubSpot in her list as she saw how we could help her with blogging, SEO and social media - all great lead nurturing tools - as you're learning as you read this.
Jame isn't ready to pull the trigger on her SEO, blogging and social media strategy. She's very busy with trade shows, managing a bunch of websites and juggling a lot of projects. But, I've kept her engaged. I'm confident we'll have the opportunity to speak with her and her CEO when they're ready to start.
6. Link to Your Prospect's Blog. Send Them Some Readers.
If your prospect has a blog, link to them, if it's appropriate. During her review of Marketing Automation products, Jame was talking to a lot of salespeople. She started blogging about whether "closers" were really needed anymore in the sales process . I had a pretty strong reaction and haven't really weighed in yet. I did write a quick blog post encouraging my sales development experts , Rick , Dave and Al to weigh in. They left great comments. So did Ray Schavone, who wrote the guest blog post mentioned above. Jame appreciated the comments very much. She says she's planning a follow up post because of the great comments she received.
7. Build a Community of Clients, Prospects and Partners On Your Blog.
Before I joined HubSpot, I ran a Company that helped public event producers market their events online. I always advised sponsoring companies to invite their clients to the networking events we held and make sure they introduced their prospects to their clients. Then, I'd advise them to walk out of the room. Assuming they were good at what they did and their clients liked them, they could walk back in the room and close deals. Their clients always sold their prospects on doing business with them. I've done the same thing on my blog several times. I often highlight my clients on my blog and every client is featured on a page of their own on my site . When a prospect starts reading my blog, they start to see how we help them. They see my clients leaving comments. They see me linking to them. They see me helping them with their social media activity. My prospects that read my blog don't doubt that I go the extra mile to help clients become successful because they see me doing it.
8. Track What Prospects Read, What Comments They Leave, How Often They Visit.
This is a capability that HubSpot provides to clients. I've never seen it in any other service. But, I use it all the time. With HubSpot's Lead Intelligence , it's possible to track all the interactions a prospect has with our blog and our website. Because of HubSpot's new salesforce.com integration , when I log into salesforce.com, I can see all the activity that a prospect has had with our site. If I see they've visited frequently and read a lot of pages, I'll often start the call with something like, "I see you've been stalking our website." It usually illicits a chuckle.
Daniel Day of IntelliCare, a 24/7 healthcare call center provider recently signed up as a HubSpot client. I saw that Daniel had pretty much read our website from front to back and attended several webinars. After a quick call to see if there was a fit, we scheduled a demonstration with him and his webmaster. He signed up a few days later.
At HubSpot, we have lots of leads to call. It's certainly not a problem that most companies have. This capability allows us to not only pick and choose who we call first. It also allows us to see what someone might be interested in discussing before the call is made. It helps us make the call warmer and more productive.
9. Be a Resource. Link to Other Relevant Articles.
A lot of people are worried about linking to other websites. They're afraid that their readers or site visitors won't come back.
Here are some great resources about how to use your blog as a sales tool.
5 Ways to Get The Opinion of Others and Add Dimension to Your Blog
Attracting, Retaining and Converting Prospects with Blogs
How Can You Build Your Brand with Your Blog
6 Tips to Turn Your Blog Into a Sales Tool
How to Sell Your Clients on a Blog Strategy
41 Blog Success Tips
The ROI of Business Blogging
You'll come back, right?
Of course you will. In fact, if you read this far, you'll most likely appreciate it that we pointed you to some additional reading material on the topic. If you don't already, you'll start to see our blog as a "go-to-resource" and you'll visit more frequently. Not less.
Plus, I'd wager a few bucks that all of the bloggers I link-to pay attention to the links they're receiving. Linking to other bloggers increases the likelihood of them starting to read your blog and eventually linking back, which sends traffic directly and helps with Search Engine Optimization.
10. Promote Your Blog Via Email.
At HubSpot, we send a monthly email to our opt-in subscribers. We're usually notifying people about an upcoming webinar , like our Social Media webinar on April 9th. We also always include a few links to relevant blog posts.
HubSpot's blogging platform also has an integrated email subscribe function that allows people to opt-in to receiving email notifications when new blog posts are published. When I started using it on my blog, I was very surprised how many people prefer email over RSS.
I also regularly send emails with links to blog posts out to people who I know might have something to add to the blogversation or who might be interested in the topic. It's another reason to reach out to a prospect or stay in touch with a referral source.
11. Promote Your Blog Via Social Media and Social Networking Sites.
There are hundreds of social media and social networking sites. There are some big ones you should pay attention to. There are some big ones that generate a good amount of traffic and a decent amount of leads for us.
The analogy I like to use for social networking and social media sites is comparing it to a real world face to face networking event. If you visit networking groups frequently and build relationships 1 on 1 in-between events, people will start to recognize you, trust you and inquire about doing business with you. But, it takes consistency. And you have to add value to conversations, find out what other people are trying to accomplish and generally be a good citizen. If you can pull off the "It's not about me. It's about you." attitude so it's believable, you'll do fine. If you genuinely just want to help people and you live that way, you'll do great.
Social media is the same way. With that in mind, here's how social media sites have worked for me and HubSpot and what you can do to "get engaged".
LinkedIn - Use it to answer questions and leave links to your blog when you do . Our visitor to lead conversion rate is high for LinkedIn. No matter what you sell, your ideal buyers are probably there.
Digg - Put a Digg button so your subscribers can Digg your posts. HubSpot's blog gets a good amount of traffic from Digg. We've had some posts get a lot of attention on Digg. Like this one about facebook . Digg sends a huge burst of traffic if you can get to the home page.
StumbleUpon - In the last week alone, StumbleUpon sent HubSpot approximately 400 visitors and generated a handful of leads. Stumble your own blog posts. Encourage subscribers to do so too, by putting a StumbleUpon link on your posts.
FriendFeed - All the digerati are raving about this one. I have a profile , but I haven't gotten hooked yet. Here's a good explanation of FriendFeed from Greg Gershman. It allows you to create one RSS feed of all of your online social media activity, so that your contacts can pay attention to your digital tracks in one place. You can pay attention to all of the social media activity of all of your friends too.
12. Blogging Supports Search Engine Optimization.
Blogging is basically free advertising on Google. Assuming you launch your blog on your own domain , every post you write is a new page on your site. Every page on your website is an opportunity to rank for a few keyword phrases. The more 'frequently searched' keywords you rank for, the more new visitors you'll get to your site. At HubSpot, our visitors convert to leads at a pretty high rate.
I don't know a better way to inexpensively attract visitors and generate leads via the web than using your blog to assist your search engine optimization efforts.
Here's a great post about using Google Analytics to optimize your posts for search traffic. If you're using HubSpot Marketing Analytics , this is actually a bit faster, easier and more intuitive, but the same principles apply.
13. Blogging Creates a Discussion and You're the Host
How do you use your blog as a sales tool? Leave your ideas, experiences and stories in the comments. If it's good, I'll write another post, include your contribution and link to your website when it's published. If you really have some good stuff to share, please request to write a guest blog post on my blog .
I look forward to hosting the discussion.