Over the last 10 years, content marketing has emerged as a powerful driver for effective social selling and inbound sales lead generation programs. And while largely heralded as a way to drive inbound leads there is another, even more powerful reason that ad and PR agencies should develop a consistent content marketing program. Let’s talk about that today.
Traditional Content Marketing Benefits
At the end of the day, all lead generation programs are powered by content. Whether in the form of an email, white paper, blog post, a podcast, or a sales presentation, valuable content is the core of any successful agency social selling or lead generation program.
Like every other vertical, potential ad and PR agency clients are self-educating via freely available digital content. Given the amount of online content devoted to marketing strategy and tactics, I’d dare say
agency prospects are even more likely than the average bear to be self-educating.
Therefore, if done well, your content entices these invisible client prospects to identify themselves by downloading something from your website or subscribing to receive a newsletter or your agency’s blog posts by email.
And there is nothing wrong with that traditional value equation of content marketing as digital lead generation tool. But there is another, possibly more important role for content marketing to play in your agency’s new business program.
Referrals as a Lead Generation Source
While it is true, and I argue is much in my book The Invisible Sale, today’s self educating prospects are increasingly turning to the digital world to research agency hiring decisions prior to talking to any agencies. However, it is also true that those same prospects continue to ask their friends and colleagues for advice and input as they research their agency options.
These referrals continue to play an important role in every ad agency business development program. And honestly, that will never change. The word of a trusted friend or colleague serves to enhance your agency’s reputation amongst prospective clients that don’t know you. So the question becomes, how can you make it easier for your potential clients’ friends and colleagues to serve as Social Agents for your agency?
Content Marketing as Reputation Enhancement
As your agency publishes content on your website, through your newsletter, webinars, white papers or eBooks, you are effectively establishing a reputation. A reputation that will precede you.
As this reputation grows, it should translate into invitations to write for well-known digital and maybe traditional media outlets, be interviewed on podcasts, radio or TV, or the pinnacle — keynoting relevant and important industry conferences.
And with each piece of content, your agency is creating social proof of your firm’s expertise, which should be part of your core social media strategy. It is this social proof that others (your sales prospects’ friends and colleagues) can reference to support their opinion of your expertise. And that is where the true value of your content marketing program lies.
The Role of Social Proof to Empower Social Agents
One of the biggest benefits of establishing third-party, social proof of your expertise is that it gives your Social Agents permission to recommend your agency be hired. Some of your strongest allies, the people that probably most respect you, are likely former colleagues, clients, close friends and superfans.
As these folks move to companies for which your agency can do work, they have the opportunity to refer you and your firm for relevant new business opportunities. However with that referral comes risk. Because in the absence of third-party social proof, it could be assumed internally by your Social Agent’s co-workers, that your Social Agent is only recommending you out of respect for your friendship, past working relationship or superfandom.
If your Social Agent’s motivation is called into question it effectively tarnishes and possibly sabotages the referral. Think about it for a second. The underlying motivation behind a referral is the heart and power of referral marketing. If you’re able to easily confirm the quality of a referred agency, you instantly become more open to the idea of hiring the referred agency. But, but if you’re unable to do that, you not only doubt the Social Agent’s motivation for making said referral, you begin to penalize the prospective agency (in your mind). And this is how social proof helps your best Social Agents sell your agency more effectively.
Reputation as a Social Selling Tool
By establishing a reputation validated through your publishing and speaking efforts you effectively give that Social Agent permission to recommend your agency. Because now they are recommending your agency because you are an expert with whom they just so happen to have a relationship. Internally that recommendation is not seen as “oh she’s a friend, former client, etc., of Shelly’s,” but instead it is seen as “Shelly is friends with a known expert (or agency) in the field and because of that friendship can arrange a meeting between that agency and our company.”
Can you see how this gives Shelly the permission she needs to strongly advocate for you and your agency as a resource for her company or her organization? Can you see how your reputation and social proof grease the wheels? And best of all, do you see how this social proof actually makes Shelly’s job so much easier?
Giving your Social Agents permission to recommend your agency is the biggest secret weapon of a strategically focused content marketing program.
So if you’re agency isn’t actively building out your social proof via content marketing — I’ve got just one last question for you…. why not?