Content Marketing or Direct Sales? You Need to Do Both

Last year, a friend of mine switched over from using an exclusively outbound marketing strategy (cold emailing and cold calling etc.) to an inbound marketing strategy, which involves content marketing.

While a greater percentage of his leads became more on-target for his business, a year later he told me that his number of qualified leads overall went down.

“That’s why you need to do both,” I told him.

Many people are not sure whether they should focus more on putting out content on social media and other platforms or on trying more traditional, direct, interruptive sales approaches to get new leads.

The truth is that a new business needs to do a little bit of both. To be sure, I’m not advocating spam or cold-calling, both of which are not only annoying but ineffective as well. Being respectful of other people’s time goes a long way and you never want to be labeled as “that guy” or gal who is always trying to push the sale on people who don’t want to be hearing from you.

For the record, I firmly believe in content marketing, which entails sharing content that provides value to the end-user usually without asking for the sale. This attracts leads to come to you rather than the other way around. Content marketing is an approach focused on building long-term relationships and boosting customer loyalty rather than on short-term “conversions” and one-time transactions.

Inbound marketing, of which content marketing is a part, finds customers where they already are e.g. on Facebook, reading articles, scrolling through LinkedIn etc. and gently pulls them in rather than interrupting them from another activity, such as a TV show, and pushing their message at them. Inbound marketing allows you to appear in front of people already looking for what you offer. These approaches are much more effective than outbound, especially today when most people are not receptive to interruptive advertisements.

Content marketing is slower in the short-term, but it helps you build brand, which is the key to achieving long-term success. Doing the hard work of relationship building and branding will help you win more sales in the long-run.

However, it takes time to build a presence and amass an engaged following that’s large enough to sustain your business. Therefore, it’s important to try outbound approaches as well. This doesn’t mean you put content marketing and building your social media presence on the back-burner. Since the results are cumulative, the right approach is to be creating content and engaging with your audience online even while you’re simultaneously winning the quick, immediate sales and leads in a more direct manner through email, calling, DM-ing, and more.

While you need the short term sales to build ca$h flow, don’t get seduced into outdated, ‘spray and pray’ tactics. Don’t cold call. Going in raw/cold without doing any research to learn more about the person you’re contacting is a big mistake and unacceptable in a world where you can easily do a quick Google search or look them up on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram to see what they’re interested in. There are also many useful tools that can help you find more targeted, qualified leads or connections.

Even when using outbound tactics, reaching out to people directly through calling, emailing, or LinkedIn messaging, you can still formulate relationships by targeting more qualified leads and genuinely seeking to help them and offer value.

A common mistake people make is they go for the short-term sales without doing the leg-work of putting out relevant content on social media and building real relationships. They neglect taking important actions that don’t translate into immediate monetary results, but can help them win big over time.  Many businesses then blow the money they earned from sales on hiring people they don’t need or worse, on unnecessary luxuries. Instead, use the money you make from those immediate sales and use it to invest in your content marketing, enhancing the quality (e.g. better video production) and building your online presence.

If you do both content marketing and direct sales, each approach will compliment the other. Your short-term sales will generate the cash flow necessarily to help you to strengthen the quality of your content creation and enable you to hire people who can help you improve it. Meanwhile, your content will warm up your leads and make them more receptive to your message, priming them for the sale whenever you finally decide to ask for it. Your non-sales content then serves to ensure that your ad spend will go further, saving you time and money. When you put out great content and interact genuinely and authentically with your audience, then you won’t even have to do much “selling,” because people will already feel a connection to you.

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I'm a writer and digital marketer. Communicating your brand's message and helping you to connect with the right audience is my specialty. If you are interested in: branding, marketing, copywriting, social media, search engine marketing, inspiration, success, and enjoying life, then my blog is the right place for you.

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