Guest post by Natalie Sieler, Content Marketing Manager, ConsumerAffairs
I work at ConsumerAffairs.com, where our mission is to create a trustworthy information marketplace to connect consumers and brands through consumer advocacy, news, and reviews. In 2015, we started a content marketing team, which I currently lead.
So what can I as a content marketing leader teach you about sales? At ConsumerAffairs, a content marketer’s job is to promote content by building personal relationships with media outlets, websites, and blogs, and encourage them to post and share ConsumerAffairs’ guides and information with users. We’re basically sales people for content.
Our program started with humble beginnings in Google Sheets with one-off emails and lots of ad-hoc cold calls. We did our own prospecting and wrote our own emails just like a sales team. I realize how stone age our methodology sounds, but it got us started and produced results — unfortunately, not the results we needed to generate any type of valuable ROI. It was time to find a solution that could offer automated outreach to a larger number of people, while still retaining the personalization to build trust.
We chose Outreach. As a consumer advocacy business that publishes expert advice and user reviews on brands and products to help people make educated buying decisions, we know a thing or two about identifying the best choices for any given product or service. So listen up and trust me when I tell you Outreach changed the game for our team.
Using Outreach, I learned a lot about running a scalable sales team, because that’s how my content marketing team had to operate to produce the results we wanted. Here are the 5 best sales lessons I’ve learned by running my content marketing team like an outbound shop with Outreach.
What numbers does your team need to hit each day, each week, each month, to achieve the business goals you’ve laid out? For instance, we want our content marketers to make 100 calls a week and have a minimum of 300 prospects active at any given time to hit our business goals.
With the way our sequences are set up, this means we need to import around 75 new prospects each week. To hit our weekly activity goals, we set up each of our sequences to have two automatic steps and one manual step each week. This helps us ensure each prospect gets an appropriate amount of touches without creating an unmanageable amount of manual tasks.
Want to get your team to ramp up their numbers? Start by defining the numbers you want to achieve and work back from there to determine the activities that need to be completed to hit that number repeatedly. Then, create a process that will set your team up for success.
I set some pretty aggressive goals on my team, and they’ll never reach them without a plan in place. We use Outreach to scale up our activity to get us there.
As it goes for most things, the larger the activity volume, the harder it is to stay organized. Sequences are the cornerstone of our workflow at ConsumerAffairs to keep us organized. We keep all prospects in a sequence, whether we’re just reaching out or following up. Our initial sequence runs for 30 days with 8-10 touches, 3-4 of which are manual. If a prospect responds we put them in a reply sequence. If a prospect goes cold, we have a sequence for that too.
Yes, this process allows us to save time with automated steps in each sequence (we can get the same amount of work done in about 10% of the time as before!) but more than anything this gives us an organized workflow to allow us to scale.
Another thing that helps us scale is the up-to-date view of tasks we have in Outreach. I love that it also gives me visibility into what my team is working on — once a week I check through my team’s task lists. This is not to micromanage, but to keep me up to date on what’s coming up, what items are the highest priority, and to raise any red flags if there are too many activities and my team is having trouble keeping up. If they are constantly behind most of the time, they have too many prospects active and need to lower the sequence throttle. When tasks are behind, prospects are falling through the cracks, and our hard work goes down the drain. It isn’t easy to find this happy medium but having visibility into tasks makes it possible as we scale.
Take the time to test the numbers with your process. Test EVERYTHING before releasing the process to your team. I know some managers just stopped reading after that point, but hear me out. I’ve been there.
In the past, I’ve over automated the process and not allowed enough freedom for my team to have their own personal touch. For instance, I’ve found that with my team, there has to be room for them to still make their own choices, so find that balance that works with your company. Outreach lets us customize that level of personalization that’s right for us. I still monitor and approve those sequences but in many cases people on my team have created higher performing emails and sequences than mine.
This brings me to my next point…
Use Outreach to make data-driven decisions. If you think your template is better, you must prove it. If you are at a crossroads, use data to make the decision. The sequence view offers valuable statics for us to make these decisions.
ConsumerAffairs offers buyers guides for hundreds of consumer products ranging from Auto Insurance to a DNA and Ancestry guide. The subject lines that work for one guide will not always work for the other. We are constantly adding A/B tests to our subject lines throughout all our sequences. We test 50 prospects through the A/B test and go with the higher performing one, and then test the email body. We test until we find what works best for whichever niche we are reaching out to.
The biggest data-driven learning for us in Outreach was testing our longer email pitch against a quick intro email that was only a third of the length. The short email performed higher than anything else we’ve tested against it!
We are always doing some type of testing. What works today may not work tomorrow, and we make this testing quick and efficient by utilizing the data and reporting available in Outreach. Keep testing everything, and if your team suggests a few changes, don’t let pride or politics get in the way. Numbers always win — always!
A common fear is a rep becoming impersonal and coming off as spam when using automated email tools. As a marketer, we’re extra careful about not sounding like robots. Who wants to talk to a marketer that can’t communicate in an engaging way? Outreach allows us to increase our reach while keeping emails personalized, essentially making our one-to-many strategy feel like a one-to-one conversation.
It is easy to fall into the numbers game where the focus becomes all about the volume. The key to combining personalization with large volume lies in the customization fields that allow a general message template to be tweaked for individual outreach. You must add manual actions into your sequences.
We use automation for those time-consuming follow ups where the messaging rarely changes. This allows us to have more time to make those personal manual touches like personalized emails and calls.
It's that level of customization from Outreach that allows our teams to utilize templates to reach a higher volume distribution of core messaging, while still infusing it with personalization.
If you’re a sales leader, you probably rolled your eyes when you read the headline to this article. After all, what can someone who doesn’t do your job teach you about doing your own job? But when it comes down to it, we’re not so different after all. And Outreach is the tool that helped my marketing team scale up like an outbound sales team.
At the end of the day, my biggest takeaway from my experience as a kind-of-sales-manager is that personal outreach is what works, but it is also so time-consuming. For us, Outreach has solved that problem through sequencing and customization. Putting aside the automation aspect, Outreach also allows more personalization and encourages quality emails and timely follow-up, which helps us make the relationships that any team needs to be successful — whether in sales or marketing!